St. Joseph may never land an Amazon distribution center or a iPhone assembly facility.
But the economy remains strong, in no small measure due to the entrepreneurial spirit and accumulated strength of small business. In Buchanan County, between a quarter to a half of all employment was associated with small businesses in 2018, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Statewide, small businesses account for more than 80 percent of employment in construction and professional services, which includes things like accounting, real estate or engineering. These businesses are not limited to the narrow confines of their home communities. Of the Missouri companies that export products to other countries, more than 80 percent are small businesses.
This time of year, it’s important to remember that small businesses make up about a third of the state’s retail sector.
Many of these local retailers are standalone firms that face a do-or-die scenario this time of year, with no corporate office to bail them out following a poor fourth-quarter sales showing. For that reason, Small Business Saturday exists to emphasize the importance of spending money at locally owned stores.
This has turned into an annual event between Black Friday — the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season — and Cyber Monday. This Saturday, some of these events take on a distinctly Downtown vibe, with a tree lighting and other seasonal activities aimed at promoting the retail establishments and restaurants located Downtown.
Those who come Downtown today will experience the character that helps revitalize this part of the city, but small businesses dot every corner of St. Joseph.
These firms deserve local support 365 days a year, because they serve as a backbone of the economy and their profits tend to stay in the local community. What’s more, these businesses shouldn’t be forgotten on the state and federal policy-making level.
So far, only a sliver of presidential debates have centered on taxation, regulation and other policies that would directly benefit small businesses and their ability to compete in the modern economy. In the next legislative session, state lawmakers should consider the impact of an online sales tax and rural broadband infrastructure on the vitality of small businesses.
It’s been said that all the insects of the world, if taken together, would outweigh elephants and other large mammals that are hard to miss.
In the economy, the same accumulated strength can be found in those mom-and-pop businesses that keep chugging along. Today would serve as a good reminder that their presence isn’t just encouraged, it’s needed.