Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday Must Read Part 1: Upsides and downsides in a national independent business survey.

A survey of 3,200 independent businesses reveals both good and bad news.

Independent Businesses Report Growing Sales and Hiring, but Policies Tilted in Favor of Large Companies Hold Them Back, by Olivia LaVecchia (Institute for Local Self-Reliance)

A large national survey has found that public support for independent businesses led to brisk sales and a sharp increase in hiring in 2015, but biased policies and other obstacles are limiting their success.

Here's the pivot.

Local First initiatives are part of what’s strengthening independent businesses, the survey found. Two-thirds of respondents in cities with an active Local First, or “buy local,” campaign said that the initiative is having a noticeable positive impact on their business, citing benefits such as new customers and increased loyalty among existing customers.

About one-third of businesses in Local First cities also said that the initiative had led them to become more engaged in advocating on public policy issues, and 44 percent said that the campaign had made elected officials more aware and supportive of independent businesses.

That’s significant because the survey also found that independent businesses are facing a number of challenges, many related to public policy.

Public policy challenges, eh?

In New Albany, one virulent 800-lb public policy gorilla is downtown's one-way street grid, which study after study has proven to be harmful to the interests of small, local, independently-owned businesses.

And yet, more than a few business owners in New Albany either don't wish to "rock" the boat, or worse, to take the time to understand the issues involved.

Think about it: If one-way streets hurt businesses like yours, then they do so 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Conversely, reversion to two-way would help your business -- 24 hours a day, every day of the year. You're fighting a battle with one arm tied behind your back -- by the city itself. The fact that the likes of Bob Caesar lobbies against reform should be the clearest possible indication that reform is both correct and necessary.

Here's another public policy issue.

On the policy side of these challenges, majorities of the businesses surveyed said they would support legislation to cap the dollar value of the economic development tax breaks that companies are eligible to receive, and that they think regulators should more vigorously enforce antitrust laws against dominant companies.

Or, what happens when one type of business (for example, Flaherty and Collins) receives preferential benefits and tax breaks unavailable to others.

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