Dear Editor,

I am a small business owner, and I am scared. My revenue has fallen off a cliff. While I am worried about my ability to keep my own business open, honestly, I am as worried about what this means for the hundreds of small businesses that make up the fabric of our community.

One thing that the quarantine has crystalized for me is how much we all need social interaction — how much we need community. Our small businesses are the vehicle that provides much of that opportunity. We are incredibly lucky to have the diversity of businesses that we enjoy, but it is in jeopardy.

We are going to lose businesses, but we can start today to mitigate that. Well-meaning citizens can’t do it by themselves. Industry must play a role. Government needs to play a role. If you are in charge of purchasing anything at the company where you work, start sourcing the things that you are currently buying online at local businesses.

If you are a supervisor, empower your employees to purchase everything they can from local businesses. Whether it is cleaning supplies or copy paper, buy it from a brick-and -mortar store in Marinette or Menominee counties. This will take effort. It will take time. But, it will make the difference. As we lose more small businesses, it will hurt our giving to non-profits, the funding of municipal services, and support of local newspapers. It will make it even harder to recruit new workers

Take the example of what would happen if we lost our local newspaper. Locally-produced, independent news is crucial for civic engagement. We cannot take our newspapers and local radio for granted. In 2018, economists at The University of Illinois at Chicago presented a study that examined how local newspaper closures affect public finance outcomes for local governments. The conclusion is surprising: the cost to a community that loses its local paper is enormous, $650,000 per municipal issue. (For example, think about financing a project the size of the REC Center). Municipal borrowing costs increase with the lack of civic engagement because a project that is not planned and executed in the light of day is a risky project for a lender to finance.

If you don’t have a subscription to the Eagle Herald, Peshtigo Times, or The Menominee County Journal, get one today. If you have a lobby at your office, purchase a second subscription for your customers in place of national magazine’s subscriptions This isn’t about my bottom line or that of any particular locally-owned business. It is about preserving the opportunities we have in our great community. Saving it will require that each of us to do what we can.

 

Kim Brooks

Wausaukee