Dr. Scott Alsobrooks , Guest Columnist
The Picayune Item
The unemployment rate in our state is on the rise again. For the second straight month an increase in those seeking employment place the current rate at 9.1 percent. With high unemployment and declining property values taking their toll on state and local tax governments, our county certainly sits in a significantly over-extended position. Continued cuts in services may well continue to take a toll on our community for the foreseeable future. These cuts will begin to effect infrastructure maintenance and development and ultimately limit the community’s ability to promote economic development activities. The only way to gain traction is to grow the number of tax payers. Many communities employ economic development professionals that engage in the activity of primarily attracting new business to a community. However, many would argue that his model is antiquated. Furthermore, the funding of this mode of economic development typically comes from the taxpayer. Some form of a tax is imposed that places a drag on the spending power of a taxpayer; money that could be spent in the local economy.
One economic development activity that is neither a trend nor requires taxation to survive is entrepreneurship. This activity actually thrives when the level of government intervention is minimal. Most often referred to as small businesses, many go own to grow into big businesses. In fact, most new jobs are actually created by small businesses as they grow and develop.
One of the major fallacies of our culture is that we often frown upon failure. When in fact, in the case of business startup and operation, perhaps we should not be so critical of these risk takers; many communities are developing local support systems to support business startups. The only government intervention required are policies that encourage small business development.
Other support mechanisms that spur growth are other business owners. Success seems to spur success; businesses work together to support other members in conjunction with the education community to create an enabling culture. This includes understanding financial systems. All businesses need startup funding; often the biggest challenge of starting a small business is gaining necessary startup capital. This is where the advice and guidance of successful entrepreneurs can be most helpful. Without a well-developed business and financial plan, most businesses will not succeed.
Another support mechanism that enables the success of small business growth has been broadband connectivity. Some rural areas are utilizing this as a highway to bring new opportunities for development of the entrepreneurial workforce. No longer does one have to be tethered to a land line either. Most mobile companies offer 3G connectivity, with the move towards 4G just around the corner. This opens up huge windows of opportunity for small and mid-size businesses; fact of the matter is you don’t have to be a tech wizard to do business over the internet either. Innovation in among the knowledge based businesses that operate in the Silicon Valley, Seattle and other high tech communities have really simplified the process. The vendor can operate their own website or utilize services such as Ebay and Amazon.com or a combination thereof. Then there is a host of ways to advertise online as well. Facebook seems to lead the pack. Vendors also gather followers via their website or Facebook and then tweet shopping information out to their customers. All of these services can be established via the internet and without some kind of advanced technological education; just basic computer literacy.
In the end, a successful small business environment is comprised of reduced bureaucracy (i.e. small government), a tolerant culture in regards to risk takers, financiers that engage in small business funding, and a local support structure that in turn attracts new ventures. This is not a trend; in fact, this is the backbone of the US economy! Most big businesses entered infancy as just a dream, or passion, of a risk taker. However, many have persevered with the help of a support structure that enabled them to grow.