By NEMS Daily Journal
As the economy struggles to emerge from a deep and prolonged recession, most of the attention is focused on job reports from big business and large-scale employers.
But small businesses are the engines that drive job creation. More than half of American jobs are in companies that employ fewer than 500 people, and the biggest share of those work for firms that have fewer than 100 employees.
Businesses of even smaller scale – fewer than 20 workers – employ nearly 20 million Americans.
The health of these businesses is vital to the national economy, and to local economies as well.
A substantial portion of such businesses are locally owned. They are the products of the innovation and entrepreneurship of local people seeing a need in the marketplace and meeting it.
National chains – smaller retailers, service businesses and the “big box” stores – are important to local and regional economies. They provide jobs and tax revenue and consumers have come to expect the familiar brands and choices they provide.
But for any local economy to be healthy, it must have a strong base of locally owned small businesses whose owners live in and have a full stake in the community.
First, a large number and variety of these kinds of businesses both reflects and encourages an ongoing economic dynamism in local communities. They give shape to the entrepreneurial impulse that is vital to any town or city – not just in business, but across the spectrum of community development activities.
Locally owned businesses are in a position to respond to particular local needs and unique customer preferences and to fill niches in the local market that others might miss. They help give each community its special distinctiveness, character and identity.
Locally owned businesses also do a good job of recirculating dollars in the community. Their support services almost always come from the local community. The goods they carry also tend to come more from local producers. Their profits stay at home. Many are generous contributors to local charitable causes.
Tupelo, Lee County and Northeast Mississippi have long been blessed with the economic strength and diversity that locally owned businesses can provide. In tough economic times, though, such businesses can be the most vulnerable because of the small scale and thin margins on which they operate.
Starting on Sept. 26, the Daily Journal will highlight a locally owned business in a special new feature that will run each Sunday in the business section. “Home-grown,” which we’ll call the feature, will be a brief snapshot giving the essential facts about a wide array of businesses.
Our hope is to be able to underscore the important role locally owned businesses play in the Northeast Mississippi economy and to introduce you to some of the people who have devoted their lives to building this segment of our economy.
Locally owned business aren’t all this community and region have to offer by a long shot. But they’re a vital part of it, and our economic strength and quality of life would be greatly diminished without them.