Locally owned businesses play a central role in healthy communities. They’re engines of opportunity, creating jobs and providing pathways to the middle class for local residents. In many cases, however, local policies have created conditions that favor large corporations and make it harder for independent businesses to compete.
Public policy needs to work better for local economies, and independent businesses can play an important role in making that happen. One way for independent businesses to do this is by meeting with local officials, which can help build the mindset that independent businesses matter and that local policy must level an otherwise uneven playing field.
A new Local Policy Action Toolkit created by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Advocates for Independent Business coalition offers independent business owners and retailers tools to do just that. This Toolkit presents concrete tips for businesses to both engage with their elected officials and advocate for policies that can support the local economy. Such advocacy by independent businesses can impact the public policies that shape the local economy and help these businesses succeed.
The Toolkit also contains a stand-alone guide Local Policy Matters: How to Grow Independent Businesses in Your City, directed at local policymakers highlighting the importance of local businesses and what policies best support them. This section of the toolkit makes a clear case for why local, independent businesses matter to a city’s well-being and vitality. The featured policy platform outlines policies local governments can use with on-the-ground stories of communities across the U.S. that have implemented these policies to support independent businesses.
What’s in this toolkit?
The new Local Policy Action Toolkit for independent businesses and accompanying Local Policy Matters guide for policymakers feature several distinct parts.
- How to Engage with Your Local Elected Officials — Here, we outline tips to help independent business owners engage with their city officials and to persuade these policymakers to adopt policies that strengthen and grow local businesses.
- Why Care about Independent, Locally Owned Businesses? — Locally owned businesses play a central role in healthy communities and are among the best engines that cities and towns have for advancing economic opportunity and building resilient places. This two-page handout details the evidence on the value of locally owned businesses to their communities.
- 9 Policies Your City Can Adopt to Grow Independent Businesses — Here, we outline common challenges that impede independent businesses and new entrepreneurs, and we offer a corresponding set of proven policy solutions that cities can enact to address those challenges.
This toolkit will help enable stronger connections between independent businesses and their local representatives. It arms local businesses with evidence on why independent businesses matter, a proven set of local policies, and examples from cities across the country that are taking action to support their local economies. Further, it outlines specific asks independent businesses can make in meetings with their elected officials. With this in mind, this resource was purposefully designed to be flexible — a local business owner can easily print and leave specific sections of the guide behind for their elected official to consider in greater detail, following their next meeting.
The more public officials hear from local, independent businesses, the more the perspectives of these businesses will be represented in decision-making and public policy. Policies that are informed by and actively support new and growing locally owned businesses can strengthen the local economy and make communities more prosperous, equitable, and dynamic.
Want more resources like this? Don’t miss our brief on eight policy strategies that cities can use to support local businesses.
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