Small businesses and communities have been challenged in recent years, and through all of this we must remind ourselves of the true value small businesses bring to our communities.

Analyst Nick Rokke, of the Palm Beach Daily, pointed out some interesting small-business facts. Small businesses make up 99.7% of U.S. companies. These same small businesses employ 49% of Americans and create 64% of all new jobs. Let those figures sink in.

Prior to 2020, the business environment was generally robust in most communities throughout the country. Beginning in 2020, the dynamic changed almost overnight. Even communities that incorporated many of the proven successful tactics — such as micro-TIFs, favorable tax rates, fewer regulations and city commitment — found themselves struggling to survive.

The equation is simple: With fewer regulations, businesses can more accurately predict the future, allowing them to hire more employees or expand. Competitive tax rates allow businesses to keep more of their profits, providing the ingredients of a strong business-inducing environment. Micro-TIFs provide targeted funds for targeted areas of your community. City commitment instills confidence and support.

Now is the time every community in America must shine its light inward and determine if it is doing everything possible to support and build its future through its small-business base.

There are many reasons why this may not be occurring in your community. It may be regional headwinds not seen in other portions of the country, such as being tied to oil prices. It may be local and state taxes coupled with regulation stifling growth. It might be a soft labor market where jobs are hard to fill. The list of economic reasons is endless.

Despite the reasons above and many others, each community must take its future in its own hands. If taxes are too high, offer tax incentives. If regulations are stifling, reduce regulations making startups easy and painless. If you haven’t taken advantage of micro-TIFs, investigate them and see if those fit your community. If you have a tight labor market, provide tax incentives for hiring locals in lieu of out-of-town employees. For every issue, there are also excuses. Don’t dwell on excuses; look for solutions to overcome your issues through creativity, innovation and being willing to invest in local people.

Most importantly, while investing in small business, simultaneously invest in your current downtown. National statistics indicate those investment dollars bring the highest financial return to your community. When downtowns are left to deteriorate, you can plan on other parts of the community following. You won’t see it overnight; it will be like a cancer or degenerative process that slowly attacks the body until it is too weak to battle back. I have yet to see a rebuilt and vibrant downtown that hasn’t positively affected the entire community.

Downtowns are what drive small-business growth throughout the entire community. Downtowns connects the young, middle age and the mature. Your downtown is the future for those communities’ seeking answers to a better tomorrow.

John Newby, of Pineville, is author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street” column dedicated to helping communities combine synergies with local media companies allowing them to not just survive but to thrive. His email is john@360mediaalliance.net.

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