UConn Daily Campus, September 25, 2013
When it’s time to pick up some hardware supplies or grab a bite to eat, most of us feel better when we can take our business to a unique and reliable local business rather than a cookie-cutter box store or restaurant. Local businesses contribute to community character and keep wealth within the community (for more details, see my previous article). The question is, why is it that big businesses seem to prosper while our local businesses continue to struggle? The primary culprit is policy.
While it is always good practice to be a conscientious consumer and to strive to buy products locally, the truth is that individual shopping behavior alone is not going to fundamentally change the economy. True reform can only be done through the legislative process. Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, addresses this mission in her compelling article “Towards a Localist Policy Agenda.” Despite many recent indications of positive local community growth, Mitchell explains our policies are still skewed towards promoting big business development over small business development.
For example, she states, that while the number locally owned grocery stores have actually increased in the past few years, “their overall market share has shrunk from about 25 to 20 percent in the last decade. Meanwhile, we’ve experienced massive consolidation in the rest of the food system. Walmart was a small player in the grocery industry 15 years ago, with only about 4 percent of grocery sales. Today it captures one of every four dollars Americans spend on groceries.”
Mitchell said that this disparity is not a reflection of what American consumers really want but is a product of corporate policy agendas. “Most people have only a dim idea of the degree to which this goes on. They assume that local businesses are failing because they can’t compete, but, to a large extent, it’s because the game is rigged,” she sates.
Read the full story here.