How Small Business Saturday Supports Milwaukee's Economy – Shepherd Express

Nov. 03, 2021
1:56 p.m.
Small Business Saturday began in 2010 as a nationwide event to raise public awareness of the importance of shopping at locally owned businesses. This year, Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 27, is more important than ever.
2020 was a rough year for America’s small businesses. While Amazon prospered, 70% of small businesses were shut down last March under COVID-19 restrictions. Many found it hard to reopen. But small can also mean nimble and small businesses, from bookshops to fine dining restaurants, found new ways to serve their customers. Owners often rolled up their sleeves, delivering meals or merchandise in their own cars or figuring out curbside pickups. Many found new revenue online while continuing to maintain a physical presence in their community.
This is no small matter. According to a 2019 statistic, small businesses create 1.5 million jobs annually, accounting for 64% of new jobs in the U.S. Community is also crucial. Most small businesses are locally focused and develop relationships with their customers. The money those customers spend helps employ their neighbors and support the economy of their hometown rather than the portfolios of distant shareholders.
The Beating Heart of Milwaukee
“Locally owned businesses are the beating heart of Milwaukee,” says Ruth Lawson, marketing and communications director at the Historic Third Ward Association. “Shoppers who choose to spend their dollars with local businesses are helping to strengthen the Milwaukee economic landscape—creating good job opportunities and celebrating community. Continued support of small businesses is vital to post-pandemic recovery.” 
Rachel Taylor, executive director of the Brady Street BID, adds: “Our businesses are competing with multi-billion-dollar corporations in other states and countries. If we don’t support our local businesses, we will lose them and the uniqueness they bring to our neighborhoods. Supporting local businesses is a crucial part of keeping our community vibrant and economically healthy.”
Local business owners agree. “I’ve seen first-hand the impact that this business has had on Milwaukee,” says PJ Early of All City Appliance. “Our customers love us because we make their lives easier, quickly and professionally, so they can return to their day. We know our customers—they come back to us when they need another repair, and they refer others to us. We use local parts stores, so we’re contributing to their livelihood and the local economy, as well as reducing our ecological impact. Because we source our materials locally, we’re creating less traffic, less air pollution and less packaging in landfills.”
“We appreciate our Bay View and Greater Milwaukee patrons,” says Voyageur Books’ Blaine Wesselowski. “By shopping at our store, they are essentially voting with their dollars that they want a bookstore, and, more specifically, our bookstore here. The money that goes into the business is almost entirely spent in the local economy and supports the local tax system. We buy our books from you and your neighbors, and sustainably recycle these used books to new homes, where they are again valued and read.”
As for Small Business Saturday, Matt Dorner, economic development director for the Milwaukee Downtown BID, calls it “incredibly important to elevating awareness and driving traffic to our locally owned, small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of the city, creating the authentic character that makes Milwaukee unique. With the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting small business is now more important than ever. Fortunately, Milwaukeeans prides themselves on supporting local and Small Business Saturday provide the perfect setting for doing just that.”
David Luhrssen lectured at UWM and the MIAD. He is author of The Vietnam War on Film, Encyclopedia of Classic Rock, and Hammer of the Gods: Thule Society and the Birth of Nazism.
Nov. 03, 2021
1:56 p.m.
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