Column: Support Main Street on Small Business Saturday and beyond | Opinion

Small businesses want to move forward by putting the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences in the rearview mirror. There is no doubt that the recovery has been slow and beset by challenges such as supply chain disruptions, inflation and labor shortages. However, there are ways for everyone in Massachusetts to ensure our downtowns and highways remain vibrant and thriving.

A solid first step is to shop locally on Small Business Saturdays.

Unlike department stores, small businesses are owned and operated by friends and neighbors. They create jobs, support our schools and donate to local charities. They have kept customers and employees safe during the pandemic and are trying to keep prices in check despite the highest rate of inflation this country has seen since the early 1980s.

Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s a day when shoppers and diners are encouraged to support local businesses that serve as the backbone of their communities throughout the year.

It started in 2010 as a way to help our family-owned stores get back on their feet after the Great Recession. It has since become one of the busiest shopping days of the year. In 2021, Americans spent a record $23.3 billion nationwide on small business Saturdays, according to American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Small Business Saturday is very different from Black Friday with its frenzied crowds, long waits in long lines, and battles for limited products. Small Business Saturday offers a customer-friendly alternative where consumers not only find great deals and service, but also learn how important independent shops and restaurants are to the local economy and their communities.

After all, according to the latest data from the US Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 98.8% of all (state) businesses.

When we shop at locally owned stores or eat at the family-owned restaurant downtown, we help keep our neighborhoods healthy. Sixty-seven cents of every dollar spent on a small business stays in the community, according to another survey by American Express and NFIB. Additionally, every dollar spent in a small business creates another 50 cents in local businesses as employers and their employees shop at other local businesses.

We cannot ignore that many small entrepreneurs are still grappling with new challenges following the pandemic. Finding workers remains the top concern for employers, with 46% reporting jobs they still cannot fill, according to a recent NFIB study. In other unwelcome news, the NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index remains below its 48-year average thanks to inflation, supply chain issues and skepticism about the economic future.

Currently, Massachusetts is heading in the wrong direction as small businesses in the state face some of the highest healthcare costs in the nation, rising energy prices, rising unemployment insurance taxes, and now some employers workers will experience an income tax hike on their retirement savings as the so-called millionaires tax passes at the polls. Massachusetts is already an expensive state to run a small business, and Commonwealth residents must lobby their elected officials to assist neighborhood businesses by not only shopping or dining locally, but adopting policies that will keep their doors from closing for always.

Shopping small on Small Business Saturday is a good start, but also remember to keep those local restaurants and shops in mind as you help influence policy decisions made by state and local legislators. When considering a new law or ordinance, they should always ask themselves: How will this affect small businesses and job creators in my community?

Massachusetts needs to be an accessible place to run a business, and many of the policies enacted by Beacon Hill and local city halls will help determine whether our main streets are filled with obscure storefronts or thriving businesses.

Christopher Carlozzi is the Massachusetts state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

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