At the heart of a successful community are thriving small businesses, with local ownership. No segment of our economy is under more attack today, however. In order to preserve these valuable assets, communities need to embrace and support them. At a civic level, efforts must be undertaken to understand the true nature of the business, their positive attributes, and any needs they have that threaten their success. Some communities have undertaken to survey their local business community (perhaps extending this to a county or regional effort) in order to fully understand the challenges and opportunities that exist. From this compilation, efforts can be made to match local suppliers and producers, address common problems (such as Internet access or other infrastructure issues) and find ways to aggressively promote these local businesses.
A natural extension of this effort is a program to aid your local businesses in competing with the threats posed by large retailers. No local business can survive head to head competition, but with careful attention to inventory mix, promotion, and personal service, many can find a niche that allows them to remain viable and profitable. Community support is also essential, and a successful small business program will also involve promoting the "shop at home" concept to the benefit of your local businesses.
Future posts will provide more specific guidance into efforts you can undertake in your community. I'm currently offering my services to assist communities in initiating these programs.