Homes

Small Towns: Supporting the businesses that make up our homes

I live in a small town, and I’m often frustrated by the lack of everything there is to find in our small town. No big bookstores, no good coffee houses, no good grocery stores. Our little place on the map survives (but barely) through an odd combination of old and mostly struggling industry and hopeful tourism. Industry brings in big-moneyed citizens at the tops of our economic chain while feeding a number of families and threatening them with layoffs each month. Tourism brings in seasonal influxes of summer-folk who rave about how rural we are, then dash back to Detroit or thereabouts to live their real lives.

It’s a hard situation for me, as a business-owner, to want to stick around. Not being a native to this particular small town, I have a difficult time finding any reason to stay here. And, economically speaking, a larger town would very likely have more opportunities for me as an independent consultant.

I’ve struggled with this for nearly three years, wondering what on earth this little town has for me. And then, as so often happens for me when I’m reading a good publication, it all coalesced in a single moment.

In an article that showed up in my last Utne Reader, singer-songwriter/business-owner, Ani DiFranco is quoted as saying,

“And Buffalo needs us. We considered going to New York years ago…but New York doesn’t need another 15 people hangin’ around. In Buffalo, we can make a difference in the community. To set up shop in Buffalo, in what is basically almost a ghost town downtown–and to be a thriving office full of people trying to re-create the music industry is a good feeling.”

And I couldn’t help thinking, “Yeah.” That’s it, and that’s what connects me here. As a business-owner, especially one in a small community, I can truly make a difference. And I think this is important for all of us as women and as business-owners. There are special issues that we can work for that are important for the survival of any community. We can work to support other local businesses–each other, in effect–in the face of huge corporate layoffs, a dwindling economy, and the in-coming corporate stores. Small-town America is in danger of disappearing, and with it go our livlihoods and our control over our own lives.

As the saying goes, “Think globally, act locally.” How better to act locally than to work to support your local economy? What can we do? Here are some suggestions, just off the top of my head:

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