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Small businesses strengthen communities

Chamber Chat

There was a time not long ago that a business person with a local retail establishment was able to make a living, raise a family and contribute to local community causes. These retailers were the bedrock of local downtowns and neighborhoods. Clothing, sporting good, tools, building supplies, office products, the list goes on and on.

Those days aren’t over, but it’s getting much more challenging each year.

Currently these retailers are facing competition not only from larger retail outlets, but also internet sales. The landscape of retail is changing faster than many small businesses can keep up with. It’s no longer just about offering a product that can be purchased at a fair value. Discounting doesn’t work since small retailers are not in a position to be able to sell at those lower prices and keep a store open.

So how are small retailers going to survive? By offering a quality customer experience and building relationships in their community, and making time to get involved and support community activities. Those that engage in building community loyalty are the ones who will define themselves from a faceless online outlet.

The responsibility then shifts to the consumers. “Think Local First” needs to be a mantra. Consumers need to engage with local businesses, get to know what is offered in the local community. Take a walk downtown, or to a local store and see what they have.

A majority of small business retailers are the people supporting the local sports teams, donating to local fundraisers, volunteering time to build local events and participating in DDAs. Small businesses need to remain the cornerstone of communities, but they can’t do it without the support from the community.

So, as we go into the holiday season shopping spree, take some time and think local first. In the long run your investment will come back to you ten-fold compared to the short-term savings from buying online or somewhere else. It may take more time and cost a little more money initially, but the end result will have much more impact on the health and growth at home.

A couple opportunities coming up this month on the West End are Ladies Night Out in Ishpeming on Wednesday, Nov. 20 and Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30. Take advantage of these grassroot initiatives to shop local.

Editor’s note: Bob Hendrickson is the executive director of the GINCC. He currently resides in Negaunee with his wife, Laura, and daughter, Sierra. He enjoys mountain biking, skiing, fishing and hunting along with family time.