Supporting local businesses this holiday season supports local jobs

In Masslive 12/13/17

Holidays are usually a rush -- managing cook times so you don't burn the latkes or the cookies, taking the kids to the Nutcracker and the school holiday parties, and, of course, getting the shopping done.

It's this last one I want to discuss.

I hope that, in the rush of the holiday season, you'll remember to stop at a small business for some of your shopping.

Supporting small businesses supports jobs in our community.

In Massachusetts, there are more than 600,000 small businesses, which together employ about half of the Commonwealth's private workforce.

Across the country, small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) make up 99.7 percent of all U.S. employers, according to 2012 data from the Small Business Administration.

Small businesses are responsible for 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs -- so "shopping small" may even support the job you want to apply for one day.

State government can play a big role in supporting these businesses and helping them stay competitive in an increasingly globalized marketplace. There are resources we can provide to make state rules and guidelines easier to navigate. Many regulations turn into roadblocks, and complicated licensing and permitting requirements hinder growth when they should be enhancing competition.

State government can and should be a partner.

One example is the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network's Western Regional Office, which provides free one-on-one business advising to help existing small businesses develop growth plans and financial forecasting charts.

That is why I'll be touring a handful of local businesses with the East of the River Five-Town Chamber of Commerce this month. I want to hear directly from small business owners about the issues they face, including the regulatory environment, and how the state can be more responsive to their needs.

Among the companies I'll be visiting are Robert Charles Photography in East Longmeadow (great for your family Christmas card), Delaney's Market in Longmeadow (the perfect stop to build your New Year's cheese board) and Pop's Biscotti and Chocolate in Wilbraham (which makes a great mid-shopping snack break).

Visiting these small businesses helps me get a sense of their day-to-day pressures and what they are doing to stay competitive in Western Mass.

Especially at a time when the whole state is buzzing with the hope of bringing Amazon's second headquarters to Massachusetts, we need to remember that our local retailers are driving our state's economy.

The consolidation of mom and pop shops into big box stores has taken a wrecking ball to our local economies. Through tax incentives and other means, our State Legislature should ensure that companies like the many family-owned small businesses, handed down from generation to generation, can still survive -- and thrive -- in our communities,.

Supporting small businesses is also vital to keeping our young talent here. How wonderful would it be if families saw their young college grads not just during the holidays a few times a year, but all year round? Creating and sustaining more job opportunities here would enable more of our young people to work and raise their families here, instead of moving away for better job prospects elsewhere.

So, this holiday season I urge you to patronize our local businesses -- such as the many local craft makers and artisans selling their wares at the Downtown Springfield Holiday Market in The Shops at Marketplace.

And, whichever holiday you celebrate this season, I hope it is happy, healthy and filled with family and friends.


State Sen. Eric P. Lesser is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies, vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, and leads Millennial Outreach for the Massachusetts State Senate. He represents the First Hampden & Hampshire District in Western Massachusetts.

Op-ed, Press ReleaseEric Lesser