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Too Big To Fail, Small Business Communities Endure,Survive

Doug Page, writing for the Dayton Daily News discusses the real secret to a cities economic development success, small businesses. Far too often community leaders go for the big headline in providing incentives and support for big box companies and forget about the little guy who is still there as big firms come and go.

The departure of NCR and the lingering death of GM must mean the end of the world in the Miami Valley is nigh.

Not so much.

Hard times? You betcha.

But as long as they are selling bacon and eggs at the Broadway Cafe in Trotwood, geraniums at Fellers Greenhouse in Clayton, wrenches at Englewood Hardware and the beer is cold at the Tollhouse Tavern up in Union, things are going to be all right.


Small businesses — from mom-and-pops to franchises to small manufacturers — are the true engines of our economy.

According to the federal Small Business Administration, companies with 500 or fewer employees:

  • represent 99.7 percent of all firms
  • create more than half of the private non-farm gross domestic product
  • create 60 percent to 80 percent of the net new jobs

Their survival depends on service. The jeweler on National Road can’t compete on price with the big box retailer. But he or she will change the battery in your watch, fix the daughter’s charm bracelet and help Dad figure out what Mom really needs for the anniversary.

The hardware store up the block will sell you two lag screws (the big box makes you buy six or a dozen) and offer sound advice — for free. At the big box, they’ll tell you what aisle.

In small retail, there are people there to help with your shopping. If it takes 45 minutes, the owner of the dance shop on Main Street will make sure the ballet slippers are the correct style and size.

Their survival depends on adaptability and innovation.

The small manufacturer in the city industrial park knows his or her survival depends on getting it right the first time. There is no margin of error. There is no such thing as a cost overrun.

The small builder and the Realtor know the customer has to be pleased. The only thing they have is their reputations.

Whether they sell, develop or make things, every small business person knows one truth: They are small enough to fail.

And when they succeed, they aren’t leaving town.

There is a sense of loyalty to their customers and community. Their business is the community.

They have a lot on their shoulders — their livelihood, their employees’ livelihood, their community’s livelihood.

Big boxes, big corporations do a lot for communities. Recent events tell us they will not always be there.

Small businesses will.

Collectively, they are too big to fail.

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