Local Businesses: Making Communities Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise
We love our local businesses and their unique impact on our communities. But now there is research to show that local businesses are more beneficial to our community than we ever thought before.
In a recent article by Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Mitchell cites research that proves local businesses actually make residents healthier:
"A study recently published in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, for example, found that people who live in communities where small, locally owned businesses are the norm are healthier than those who live in places where large corporations predominate. 'We find that counties with a vibrant small-business sector have lower rates of mortality and a lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes,' conclude the study’s authors, Troy Blanchard, Charles Tolbert, and Carson Mencken."
But local businesses aren't just good for our health, they also promote civic engagement:
"Another study, by Blanchard and Todd Matthews, found that counties dominated by a few big firms have lower levels of social capital and less engaged citizens than those in which economic activity is dispersed across many locally owned businesses. 'We find that residents of communities with highly concentrated economies tend to vote less and are less likely to keep up with local affairs, participate in associations, engage in reform efforts or participate in protest activities at the same levels as their counterparts in economically dispersed environments,' they conclude."
So what's going on here? Mitchell concludes there are three reasons for these trends:
"One has to with local business owners themselves. Their personal and financial interests are tied to the community’s well-being and, as a result, they are often active in various civic endeavors. While small business owners gain prestige and influence by contributing to community improvement, corporate managers garner status by advancing the company’s interest, even at the expense of the community.
Another reason is that cities with a strong entrepreneurial culture and local control of economic resources have more capacity to solve problems on their own and are more resilient and adaptable in times of distress. Those that are dependent on outside corporations have little ability to marshal resources to overcome challenges.
Yet a third way local businesses nurture social capital is by creating environments that foster social ties. People shopping at farmers’ markets and traditional Main Street business districts are more likely to run into neighbors and engage in a greater number of conversations than those navigating the aisles of a big-box store, studies have found."
So there you have it: supporting our local and independent businesses is not only good for our economic health, it's also good for our own personal health and well being!
Did you know that by redirecting just 10% of your spending to local businesses can keep millions of dollars in our local economy to support our community? Find local businesses to support near you!