The small business is the engine of the American economy. Small businesses employ almost 50% of the workers in the United States. Gainesville has a thriving small business community. From local shops and boutique stores downtown, to agriculture, manufacturing, and energy. Gainesville probably has more people working for a small business than the national average.
Data from the Small Business Administration shows that rural small businesses are not growing as fast as their metropolitan counterparts (PDF). We must support existing small businesses, and plan for the next crop of businesses. Moving forward, we must commit to supporting the growth of local small businesses in Gainesville.
How can we support small business?
First, we can leverage the two opportunity zones that are in Gainesville. These opportunity zones are prime investment areas. They provide great places to start a business and give investors, including the business owner a federal tax deferral for the investment. The city, the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, and the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation can work together to leverage these opportunity zones to spur further investment. The federal government even provides grants to small businesses to help them take advantage of Qualified Opportunity Zones. Right now is the best time since 2008 to start a business.
Next, we can support our Historically Underutilized Businesses. These are businesses that are owned by women and minorities. People with disabilities should also be included in this in Texas. These businesses are operated by owners who know how to work hard, have great ideas, and can bring new ways to look at old problems. They are innovative thinkers with a heart for not only their business but the community. These are the types of businesses that embrace the city and put business roots down.
Third, we must make it easier for people to conduct business in Gainesville. If a small business seeks to move and revitalize an area, to make a property look better, to make a difference in a neighborhood, then we should help that business achieve their dream. Sometimes it will take creativity and even give and take on all sides, but we must look at the big picture and think about Gainesville not only today, but ten years from now. What message do we want to communicate to our business owners? If a business owner has a viable plan, that plan and the effort that went into that plan should be respected during the zoning process.
Last, we must seek new small businesses and new industries to move to Gainesville and make this there home. Not just another branch office or second location, but there home. Businesses that commit to a community are telling you how they view the city for the long-term. If you incentivize people you will get positive results. Gainesville must incentivize business owners to take bold steps and risks for the future of Gainesville. This goes beyond giving tax rebates to businesses. Those have their place, but they should not be used to put a higher burden on the citizen taxpayers.
Our business community must be diverse in terms of industry. We need a mix of blue-collar and white-collar industries. The temptation to invest heavily in one sector should be avoided. I can speak from personal experience from growing up among the oil patch in West Texas that depending too much on one industry is bad for a community.
Gainesville could be the next Frisco. To make it happen we must start now to plan for the future and small businesses are a large part of that future.
Do you have a small business? In what ways can we support small businesses?