By Susan Odum Extension Educator Community & Economic Development University of Illinois Extension
The local business community is a reflection of our culture, our unique character and our community. It helps define who we are and is an integral part of what makes our community a great place to live.
However, our rural communities are in danger of losing their unique character as residents continue the trend of traveling outside of the local area and into neighboring states to spend their discretionary income and contract for services. If this trend continues, each year we can anticipate having fewer and fewer local businesses and less and less local character.
While we are fortunate in Illinois to have pockets of significant employment associated with manufacturing, gaming, and prisons; overall, small businesses are the lifeblood of the rural communities that comprise Illinois and are, therefore, critical to their survival.
To retain what makes our local communities unique, we each need to reexamine our current buying patterns and make a conscious effort to identify ways to keep more money circulating in the local economies.
Supporting local businesses preserves the economic diversity and unique character of our local communities. By embracing what makes our communities unique, we can develop a strong sense of community and continue to provide gathering places where we can interact with our neighbors and friends, as well as the local business owners.
Local business ownership means that important decisions are made by people who live in our community, are our friends and neighbors and have a personal vested interest in the long-term success of the community.
Individuals, workers, and small business owners are more likely to move to or invest in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character. In addition, communities that offer local character are more attractive to tourists according to Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation who stated “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.”
Therefore, preserving what makes our rural communities unique can in turn bring “NEW” dollars into the community, which further supports the growth of the local business community.
Local businesses help build strong, sustainable communities, enhance the quality of life, and create a specific sense of place. Our rural communities are worth saving. Let’s start today!
MARION CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 2305 West Main St PO Box 307 Marion, Illinois 62959