Throwback: Down on Main Street
Throughout 2013 – in celebration of Sustainable Industries' 10-year anniversary – we're re-publishing some of our favorite historical feature articles as part of a series called "Throwback." We welcome your comments and observations on how sustainable business has blossomed, stayed stagnant or reversed course over the past decade we've been chronicling it. The following we offer in celebration of this past week's "Small Business Saturday," an antidote to the big-boxes' behemoth Black Friday.
Diversity is just as essential an ingredient to a healthy economy as it is to a healthy planet.
How, then, can mom-and-pop retailers open up shop and compete on price against massively scaled “neighborhood” restaurants and big-box retailers that exist in most U.S. communities?
How can renewable energy startups dip into Big Oil and Big Coal’s energy market dominance when the latter enjoy lucrative subsidies and record-breaking profitability? (Even a massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill can’t stop BP from positive earnings).
And how can a small green business get a loan to hire much-needed help when banks described as “too big to fail” are sitting on billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money?
These are not new questions. But today, mounting economic frustration and increased disparity among those seeking and those actually achieving the American business dream is reaching a fevered pitch.
Political leaders, fond of offering quaint lip service to small businesses, now find themselves in ideological straightjackets: Democrats lapse in leadership and compromise to the disquiet of their core, while Republicans obstruct any and all programs that might offer badly needed economic stimulus for real people. Oh, and your national credit rating just got downgraded.
And while all the angry talk of deregulation and tax breaks dominates America’s media roundtable, many large corporations have it relatively easy, at least by comparison to small businesses.
It’s the small businesses, after all, that weed through endless bureaucracy, hold up a disproportionate share of the tax burden, and have no nameless, faceless corporate veil to hide behind. When economic news worsens and cashflow gets tight, small businesses are the last to get paid, if they get paid at all. Their leaders do the jobs of multiple people. Their health insurance premiums have soared. They don’t have access to capital markets. And they conduct business without a stable of high-priced lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, loopholes and a popular cable news station to see that things go their way.
And these are the companies desperately needed to create jobs in America.