This time, let's look at specific things a community can do to help existing small businesses thrive, and to attract new ones because of the positive climate you've created. It's essential that civic leaders understand just who the local businesses are, and what challenges these businesses face. In addition to the value of the information gathered, undertaking such a program will send a clear message that your community is pro-business. Depending on the size of your community, and what efforts are already underway, this can be a large or small effort. The key is this - create a database of all local businesses, identify the products or services they offer, what raw materials, if any, they require to work, as well as their infrastructure requirements. Meet directly with owners or local managers and ask specific questions . . . be sure to inquire about challenges, and take the time to listen and record their comments. A team made up of civic and business leaders should be at the forefront of this effort.
A word about coverage: be sure you take steps to identify all local businesses, don't just rely on storefronts . . . so that you cover rural, home based, or other non-traditional businesses.
Once you have completed the data gathering, compile and review the results . . . what synergies exist with other local businesses, for example? If you are in a region where other communities are doing the same thing . . . compare notes, and see if you can find regional suppliers, customers, or peers of your businesses. Be sure to address challenges, especially if there are common concerns across many businesses. Infrastructure is a common issue: transportation, broadband Internet, water, or natural gas.
Host networking meetings, make introductions, and watch businesses do better as a result of your efforts. Your businesses will feel like they are cared for, and your local economy should do better.
Please share your experiences with these projects as you undertake them.