Saturday, April 26, 2008

A World Without Small Business...

Ashley Kingsley originally posted this article and David Sandusky started some discussion of it here where I posted this response.

Some of us are actively doing something about this.

We are not dealing with an even playing field. The federal government spends about $300 billion a year in incentives and subsidies to big business, and that was BEFORE the Bush administration started increasing this pattern and doesn't even reference massive contracting (like Halliburton). State and local governments bend over backwards with tax-reductions and subsidies trying to attract big businesses in order to create jobs. Everyone (including government employees) have our investments and retirement funds tied up in financial vehicles that provide trillions more of public funding for big business.

We live inside of a cultural myth that big business is more efficient, provides more consistent quality, more competitive prices, and is the backbone of our economy, yet in spite of the $trillions of additional funding they receive, 85% of new jobs created in the past 5 years were in the small - medium business sector. Most real innovation comes from small business (and tends to later be purchased by the big boys).

However, much of our core infrastructure has been gobbled up by big business with their additional public funding. Wal-mart is the biggest grocery distributor in the country now, and all the slots behind it Kroger Corp., Safeway, etc. are not much better. What happens to these massively globalized business models when gas is $10/gallon? $25/gallon? $50/gallon? It's already bankrupting the business model of the airlines as it approaches $4/gallon. We need to start rebuilding our LOCAL capacities and LOCAL economy.

----- Okay, so what are we doing about it? --------

In Denver we have started the Mile High Business Alliance ( to support local businesses. We are taking on a huge array of ambitious programs for promoting local business, increasing relationships and trust in the community, shifting people's awareness, shifting governmental practices and policies, creating local investment funds, and so on.

We have created a series of walking guides for neighborhoods with a high-density of local businesses to help shift people's big mall and big box buying habits. So far we have published Local Flavor Guides ( for East Colfax, S. Pearl St., S. Gaylord St., and the Santa Fe Arts District. We have two more guides coming out over the next few weeks for SoBo (S. Broadway) and Uptown (17th & 18th Ave from Grant to York). We've got about 20 guides currently in the plans.

To help compete with national advertising hoopla we got mayor Hickenlooper to declare the week following Thanksgiving "Buy Local Week" and are starting to promote the local alternatives to big-box holiday shopping patterns.

In the next couple weeks we are launching a large Local First campaign ( One portion of this is media exposure and viral & grass-roots marketing, another is our online business directory with only Colorado-based businesses in it. Although you can search for business by name, category or proximity, this is not just fancy phone book, it is a place of full community engagement and transparency. We are collecting ratings and feedback for all the businesses as well as information about their community involvement, environmental sustainability, employment practices, customer care, social responsibility, etc. You can see metrics, ratings and rankings of how local businesses are doing on all these things.

The directory is launching with basic information for 432,000 Colorado businesses. A few thousand will also have extended information and we'll have the business practice infor for the first few hundred. But we need YOUR participation to make it really work. Tell us your favorite businesses. Rate your experiences. Tell us about your priorities. Help us take back the streets for local business!

And others are working on this too.

I realized I should post some more resources for non-Denverites.

The Mile High Business Alliance is a BALLE Network (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies - and is part of a whole relocalization movement (

In the past couple years we've had a handful of other BALLE networks crop up in Colorado: Boulder Going Local, Longmont Small Business Association, Be Local Northern Colorado (Ft. Collins) and LaPlata Organization Cooperative Advocating Local (LOCAL in Durango).

And books.... Micheal Shuman's books _Going Local_ and _The Small-Mart Revolution_

There's a lot of great stuff happening to help tip the scales back from the hands of big business. Come get involved!