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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

Don't Dream It's Over: Small Businesses to the Rescue

I am a diehard fan of community resilience. I have given many talks specific to that or have included it tangentially because it is just that important. Business continuity is an important aspect of community resilience because of the service businesses provide to the residents of the community.

Like what?

First there are the taxes. Business taxes fund municipal services and schools. Businesses also provide a selling point for residents to come to the area – almost every real estate listing proudly features the proximity to shops. If the residents are there, businesses come. If businesses come, residents come. It’s a lovely cycle. 

Businesses also enhance the lives of the people who live there. Access to products and services like coffee or a brewery or a hair salon. Employment opportunities naturally follow. A community begins to identify with the businesses and the businesses build the community. Two examples:

In Canton, NC, a paper mill that was integral to the town’s identity closed its doors. It is a very small rural town. How can the town come back? Another big industry employer would be great, but that is unlikely to happen in a quick enough timespan. Another option? Small businesses opening. Many of them.

Is there a Cinderella story here? Yes! With another town in North Carolina!

Remember that Big Tobacco lawsuit in the 90s? There was money there…where did it go? Some of it went to states to fund business opportunities and investments in towns that were defined by tobacco. Lucky Strike was headquartered in Reidsville, NC. Currently, there is a new, thriving brewery there: Lucky City Brewing. The brewery - a co-op - has live shows and has plans to build an on-site kitchen, which creates more jobs. How did it get there, in a company town without a great number of resources or a major company to anchor it?

The Economic Development Administration (EDA), part of the US Commerce Department, has a mission to bring economic development and viability to rural areas. The Commerce Department cares a lot about business succeeding: they also are the parent to NIST, which gives us all their cybersecurity framework to use and adapt! Lucky City Brewing took advantage of some EDA programs and that money was matched by the Golden Leaf Foundation, which gives grants to former tobacco communities in NC.

The point is two-fold: all is not lost when big companies leave a town – small businesses can start to fill in the gap; and knowing what resources there are to assist with a pivot makes everything less painful.

Like business continuity to keep it alive.

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