Economic development means different things to different people. For some, this could mean an economic development agency attracting a big business to provide “good local jobs.” For others, it may mean low interest rates or government-backed loans or grants. Yet others might believe that economic development “doesn’t affect me at all” or even “is a waste of taxpayers’ money!” But what is economic development? Why is this important? Why should we care?
If you google the definition of economic development, you’ll get all sorts of very detailed definitions, but essentially it’s the act of improving the economy of a community. Our government stimulates the economy by creating and funding economic development agencies, providing grants, low interest loans, infrastructure projects, historic renovations, parks, recreational opportunities, better transportation, investing in the community, etc. cities and towns) and the private contractors they hire also spend their wages in the community, creating a stable middle class and helping our local economy – Think Fort Drum, all local New York State parks and agencies, public schools and universities, DOT, etc.
Government money also funds the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Our mission at SBDC is to help small businesses succeed. We provide free support to potential small businesses or expanding small businesses. SBDC can help a client develop business plans, secure financing, develop marketing plans, and conduct market research and analysis. We offer a wide variety of webinars on a range of topics from “marketing Mondays” to live tax talks 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 local economic agencies don’t just focus on big business. They’re also designed to help local small businesses with start-up loans, joint financing, and even down payment assistance. They offer beneficial loan programs for small businesses and can be more flexible than traditional lenders.
Helping small businesses helps the community. Local businesses are a key economic driver for our community. When we spend money on small local businesses, most of the money goes directly back into the local economy. Landlords and their employees purchase local goods and services, pay local rent and property taxes, and a portion of sales tax is paid to the county government and local municipalities.
Small businesses can also provide a better quality of life for the community, which also contributes to economic development. Local entrepreneurs are creating new types of regional 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. Plus, it’s one more reason to live here and visit here. How can we prevent young people from leaving our region? By creating new opportunities for them right here.
When I was in my twenties, I lived in New York and London, England, but decided to go home after college and start a business that was not available in our area, because there was no place I would rather be (especially in the summer). I opened a drama and comedy club in Sackets Harbor which operated successfully for over twenty years. I helped inject a new cultural and entertainment option. I would love to help other people start their small business. Now that I am in my new role as an SBDC Business Advisor, I am able to help others start their business, achieve their dreams.
However, it is not necessary to create a small business to support the economic development of our region. You can promote economic development simply by supporting your local small business. Go to local restaurants and local stores. Instead of shopping online with a giant corporation (you know who I’m talking about), spend your money locally. It helps local businesses, helps local jobs, and then your local money goes back into the local economy. You can boost the local economy by simply spending locally, and yes, even paying your taxes!
What are the drivers of economic development in our region? You are! And if you’re looking to start a new business or expand, the Small Business Development Center is here to help. We may also be able to help you stay in business.
Michael Kinnie is a Certified Business Consultant with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jeffesron Community College. Contact him at [email protected]