How important is small business?

Published 1:47 am Friday, November 25, 2011

They don’t have enough parking. They don’t have a big selection. They’re too expensive.
On the drive to Greenville, to Target and Barnes & Noble, to Toys “R” Us and Best Buy, a litany of complaints about small retail businesses keeps the pedal to the metal. With their modest stores and unobtrusive signage, local retailers are regularly bypassed in favor of giant parking lots, the lure of a midshopping lunch break at chain restaurants, the prospect of saving a few dollars, though gas and a lunch out eat into those “savings” quickly.
Small retail businesses are a staple of the small town — they’ve always been here, thus they are as easily ignorable by locals as, say, the cannonball in the Marsh House.
But they shouldn’t be ignored. They are far more important than we think.
In the United States, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms and employ half of all private-sector employees. From 1993 until 2009, small firms accounted for 65 percent (9.8 million) of the 15 million net new jobs created during that time period.
Numbers don’t lie, but they also don’t tell the full story of small businesses in a small town. Perhaps a small-business owner gave you, your spouse or your child a first job. Could be a local retailer knows what you like and stocks his or her store, sometimes, with you in mind. Maybe a friend, a relative or a neighbor owns or works in a small business.
And if that small business should close its doors for good (as roughly 600,000 of them do each year), those doors close on much more, whether it’s childhood memories, the already dying art of true customer service or that friend/relative/neighbor now searching for a job in a county where unemployment hovers around 11 percent.
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, during which millions of people across America have pledged to keep their Christmas dollars local and in the hands of people they know. Join in, “shop small” and help the people and places we know continue to grow.