Policy Tools

Guide to Policy Tools that Strengthen Independent Businesses

Policy matters. Over the last 40 years, however, we’ve made a series of policy decisions that have promoted economic concentration, at the expense of fair competition, independent businesses, and communities. As a result of these decisions, the number of independent businesses has plummeted, income inequality has grown sharply, and whole regions of the country have been left behind. It’s time for new policy. In this guide, we offer a platform with five planks:

1. Create a Built Environment that Supports Local Businesses
2. Reorganize Economic Development Programs
3. Enable Access to Sufficient Capital
4. Implement an Equitable Tax System
5. Promote Fair and Open Competition

In each of these areas, we cover specific policies to pass at the local, state, and federal levels — plus examples of places that have done just that. See the full policy guide.

Plus, below, see more of our resources on policy, organized by: In-depth Reports, Factsheets and Infographics, Featured Articles, and Audio & Video.

In-Depth

New Toolkit Helps Independent Businesses Advocate for Policies that Support the Local Economy

New Toolkit Helps Independent Businesses Advocate for Policies that Support the Local Economy

Marie Donahue

July 17, 2018

When independent businesses meet with their local officials, they help build the mindset that independent businesses matter. A new Local Policy Action Toolkit created by ILSR with the Advocates for Independent Business coalition offers independent business owners and retailers concrete tips for engaging with their city officials and advocating for policies that strengthen and grow local businesses. By advocating for policy change, independent business owners can help create a stronger local economy.READ MORE


Monopoly Power and the Decline of Small Business

Monopoly Power and the Decline of Small Business

Stacy Mitchell

August 10, 2016

The U.S. is much less a nation of entrepreneurs than it was a generation ago. In this report, which won an award for antitrust scholarship in 2017, we suggest that the decline of small businesses is owed, at least in part, to anticompetitive behavior by large, dominant corporations. The report presents three reasons to bring a commitment to fair markets for small businesses back into antitrust policy, and concludes by outlining specific steps to do just that.READ MORE


How Rising Commercial Rents Are Threatening Independent Businesses, and What Cities Are Doing About It

How Rising Commercial Rents Are Threatening Independent Businesses, and What Cities Are Doing About It

Olivia LaVecchia

April 20, 2016

As the cost of leasing commercial space soars in many U.S. cities, this report examines what's behind the skyrocketing rents and explores six broad policy strategies that cities are proposing to keep space appropriate and affordable for independent businesses.READ MORE


Report: North Dakota’s Pharmacy Ownership Law Leads to Better Pharmacy Care

Report: North Dakota's Pharmacy Ownership Law Leads to Better Pharmacy Care

Stacy Mitchell

October 20, 2014

What a difference local ownership makes. Under a forward-thinking 1963 law, North Dakota does not allow chains to operate pharmacies. Instead, virtually all of the state's 171 pharmacies are locally owned and independent. In this data-driven study, ILSR finds that North Dakotans receive significantly better pharmacy care by every measure, from some of the lowest drug prices in the nation to unparalleled access, particularly in rural areas.READ MORE


Towards a Localist Policy Agenda

Towards a Localist Policy Agenda

Stacy Mitchell

July 5, 2013

To regenerate local businesses, we'll need more than Buy Local campaigns; we'll need to change public policy, which now favors big business. In this presentation, Stacy Mitchell looks at seven key policy areas to focus on.READ MORE


Factsheets & Infographics

8 Policy Strategies Cities Can Use to Support Local Businesses

8 Policy Strategies Cities Can Use to Support Local Businesses

Stacy Mitchell

August 28, 2017

Independent businesses are among the best engines that cities have for advancing economic opportunity. But they're disappearing in many places. This isn't, in large part, because these businesses aren't competitive. It's because misguided public policy and concentrated market power are working against them. In this policy brief, we present 8 ways that cities can level the playing field and ensure that local businesses have the opportunity to start, grow, and thrive.READ MORE


Featured Articles

6 Ways to Rein In Today’s Monopolies

6 Ways to Rein In Today’s Monopolies

Stacy Mitchell

February 16, 2018

Monopolies are strangling competition and cutting off opportunity. In this feature for The Nation, we show how to stop them.READ MORE


In Jersey City, a Policy Fosters Local Independent Businesses

In Jersey City, a Policy Fosters Local Independent Businesses

Olivia LaVecchia

December 14, 2017

In downtown Jersey City, a familiar story is playing out: Independent business owners have helped foster neighborhood growth, and now, chain stores are interested in sweeping in with their own locations. What's different in Jersey City is that the city has taken proactive steps to check this common cycle, and instead, build a model that allows for more opportunity for local entrepreneurs.READ MORE


ILSR’s Testimony at New York City Hearing on Retail Diversity and Neighborhood Character

ILSR's Testimony at New York City Hearing on Retail Diversity and Neighborhood Character

Olivia LaVecchia

October 10, 2016

At a recent New York City Council hearing, ILSR submitted testimony examining the importance of locally owned businesses to the City, the crisis affecting them, and examples of effective and proven policy strategies to level the playing field for these businesses.READ MORE


How Washington Punishes Small Business

How Washington Punishes Small Business

Stacy Mitchell

May 8, 2015

In our op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, we look at how much of our public policy seems to designed to bend the market in the favor of big corporations, and put small, independent businesses at a competitive disadvantage.READ MORE


Understanding the Small Business Credit Crunch

Understanding the Small Business Credit Crunch

Stacy Mitchell

April 16, 2014

Even as their big competitors are awash in capital, many locally owned businesses are struggling to secure the financing they need to grow. This analysis finds that, since 2000, bank lending to large businesses is up 36 percent, while small business loan volume has fallen 14 percent and "micro" business loans — those under $100,000 — have plummeted 33 percent.READ MORE


Audio & Video

San Francisco Breaks the Chain Stores, Strengthens Neighborhood Economies (Episode 31)

San Francisco Breaks the Chain Stores, Strengthens Neighborhood Economies (Episode 31)

Nick Stumo-Langer

October 19, 2017

San Francisco has one-third as many chain stores as the national average. That's thanks in large part to a city ordinance that restricts "formula" businesses. We talk with AnMarie Rodgers, senior policy advisor to the city’s planning department, about how the city implemented the policy, how it works, and what advice she has for other cities that want to do it too.READ MORE


How Big Businesses Get Big Subsidies (Episode 23)

How Big Businesses Get Big Subsidies (Episode 23)

Nick Stumo-Langer

June 29, 2017

In this episode of our podcast, Building Local Power, ILSR's Stacy Mitchell interviews Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First about the tax incentive packages that governments give to big corporations, and how local governments can do economic development better.READ MORE


Watch: How Cities Can Create a Built Environment Where Local Businesses Thrive

Watch: How Cities Can Create a Built Environment Where Local Businesses Thrive

Olivia LaVecchia

May 9, 2017

Cities are changing to become increasingly inhospitable to locally owned businesses. In this 20-minute talk, ILSR's Olivia LaVecchia discusses what's causing the problem, why it matters — and six policy strategies that cities are using to address it.READ MORE


Watch: Policy Tools That Enable Local Businesses to Thrive

Watch: Policy Tools That Enable Local Businesses to Thrive

ILSR

September 7, 2016

For too long, public policy has rigged the market to favor big corporations and undermine small, locally owned businesses, especially those launched by women and people of color. In this video of a panel session at the CommonBound conference, ILSR's Stacy Mitchell and other leaders discuss how, now, local businesses and activists across the country are working to change the rules to instead support community enterprises.READ MORE


A Localist Agenda: Policy and Politics for Building a Community-Scaled Economy (Video)

A Localist Agenda: Policy and Politics for Building a Community-Scaled Economy (Video)

Stacy Mitchell

October 1, 2014

In this panel at the New Economy Coalition's 2014 conference, ILSR's Stacy Mitchell, together with Barry Lynn of Open Markets and Aaron Bartley of PUSH Buffalo, talk about crafting a countervailing political narrative and shared policy framework for devolving economic power and building a community-scaled economy.READ MORE


Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy: Stacy Mitchell’s TEDx Talk

Why We Can't Shop Our Way to a Better Economy: Stacy Mitchell's TEDx Talk

Stacy Mitchell

December 1, 2012

In this TEDx talk, Stacy Mitchell makes the case for a new phase in the local economy movement.READ MORE