Economic Development means different things to different people. To some, it might mean an economic development agency attracting a big business to provide “good local jobs.” To others it might mean low interest or government–backed loans or grants. Still, others might believe economic development “doesn’t affect me at all,” or even “is a waste of taxpayer dollars!” But what is economic development? Why is it important? Why should we care?
If you Google the definition of economic development you’ll get all sorts of very detailed definitions, but in essence, it’s the act of improving a community’s economy. Our government spurs the economy by creating and funding economic development agencies, providing grants, low interests loans, infrastructure projects, historic renovations, parks, recreational opportunities, better transportation, investing in the community, etc. Plus, government workers (including those of local towns and municipalities) and the private contractors they hire also spend their paychecks in the community, creating a stable middle class and helping our local economy – Think Fort Drum, all the local New York state parks and agencies, public schools and universities, D.O.T., etc.
Government money also funds the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Our mission at the SBDC is to help small businesses succeed. We provide free assistance to potential small businesses or expanding small businesses. The SBDC can help a client develop business plans, obtain financing, assist with marketing plans, and do research and market analysis. We offer a wide variety of webinars on a range of topics from “Marketing Mondays” to live chats about taxes with tax experts. Pro tip: All of our services are free.
The SBDC can also help connect businesses with one of the local economic development agencies. You may not realize that most of the local economic agencies are not just focused on big business. They also are designed to help small local businesses with start-up loans, joint financing, and even assistance with down payments. They offer loan programs that are advantageous to small businesses and can be more flexible than traditional lenders.
Helping small business helps the community. Local businesses are a key economic driver for our community. When we spend money at local small businesses most of the money goes right back into the local economy. The owners and their employees buy local goods and services, pay local rents and property taxes, and a portion of the sales tax goes into county government and local municipalities.
Small businesses can also provide greater quality of life for the community which also helps with economic development. Local entrepreneurs create new types of area attractions, unique restaurants, new services, entertainment, and recreational options. Exciting new businesses give our region more culture, more recreation, more diversity, more things to do. Also, it is one more reason to live here and visit here. How can we stop young people from leaving our area? By creating new opportunities for them right here.
When I was in my twenties, I lived in New York City, and London, England but decided to come back home after college and create a business that wasn’t available in our area, because there was no place I’d rather be (especially in the summer). I opened a theatre and comedy club in Sackets Harbor which ran successfully for over twenty years. I helped inject a new cultural and entertainment option. I’d like to help others start their small business. Now I’m in my new role as an SBDC business advisor, I am in a position to help others start their business, make their dreams come true.
However, you don’t have to create a small business to bolster economic development in our area. You can promote economic development by simply supporting your locally owned small business. Go to locally owned restaurants and locally owned shops. Instead of making your purchases on-line with a behemoth corporation (You know who I’m talking about), spend your money locally. It helps local business, helps local jobs, and then your local money goes back into the local economy. You can drive the local economy by simply spending locally, and yes, even paying your taxes!
Who are the economic development drivers in our region? You are! And if you are interested in starting a new business or expanding, the Small Business Development Center is here to help. We also may even be able to help you just stay in business.
Michael Kinnie is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jeffesron Community College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.