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Fight the plight of small business during COVID-19 with policy changes and spending local

The Mill founder Robert Herrera makes the case for continuing support for small businesses — which are also local job creators — on Delaware's commercial corridors.

Market Street in Wilmington, 2017. (Photo by TCDavis with Creative Commons license)
This is a guest post by Robert Herrera, founder of coworking network The Mill. A version of this piece originally appeared on The Mill's website and is republished here with permission.

Companies like Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Google, Zoom and HelloFresh won in 2020. They were already winning, but now, I mean, they WON. Won big.

In a way that almost mirrors all of that winning, small businesses lost big in 2020. Entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels, mom-and-pop shops that have been around for decades — all lost, and in a big way.

I think the “shop local” tag line will be more important than ever before. Our small business community here in Delaware does more to prop up our local economy than is yet acknowledged, at least in our spending habits.

Sometimes it’s important to state the obvious: Small businesses are job creators, and most of those jobs are local jobs. Rather than having to commute to another city, employees work closer to home.

Take a stroll down Main Street (Newark), Market Street (Wilmington), Loockerman Street (Dover), or Rehoboth Avenue and you will notice that your community has its own unique character and charm. From antiques dealers, coffee shops and the occasional yoga studios, these businesses contribute to a community’s identity. Compared to shopping malls and chain stores, local shops tend to require fewer public services and less infrastructure. I would argue, with fewer tax dollars propping them up, they have a stronger impact on the local quality of life than we give them credit for.

So what’s next for America’s main street? A handful of these businesses have already closed their doors. I suspect that many of the independent restaurants do not fully know how to handle the amount of debt that they have accrued over the last year. So what will this mean for them?  Years of work, grinding, cutting costs and pivoting, just to get back to the stability they once had. It will be an uphill battle.

I think that our state and local governments’ actions over the next year are more important for our communities than ever before. These actions could include relaxed regulation around outdoor seating, permitting, alcohol regulation for restaurants, using the state’s park systems to support small businesses this summer, etc. (I’ll expand on this in a future post.) Our small business community needs you.

Please do not let partisan politics, complacency and bureaucracy stop us from providing the support these businesses so desperately need. And, for our local community of work-from-homers — I beg of you — spend local.

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