By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Nov. 30, 2017 | 3:45 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – What started as a grassroots effort to highlight the importance of the nation’s small businesses as their larger counterparts flash tempting sales to draw shoppers into their stores during the Thanksgiving weekend has blossomed into a movement that sees millions of people visiting their friends and neighbors’ locally owned businesses as part of Small Business Saturday.
While Black Friday is dominated by the likes of Walmart, Best Buy, and other big-box retailers offering slashed prices during extended hours to lure customers to their stores, Small Business Saturday is all about getting those same people to “Shop Small” and visit stores, restaurants, and other businesses in their community.
That mission holds true in Prince George as the landscape of the county is dotted with various businesses, many of which are locally owned and operated, who saw increased foot traffic in their storefronts all weekend.
Leading up to last weekend’s Small Business Saturday event, supervisors in Prince George passed a resolution supporting the yearly initiative as a show of support for local businesses that “create jobs, boost our local economy, and preserve our neighborhoods.”
Prince George Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Robertson spoke to the important role small businesses play in local, regional, and national economic health.
“Small business is the heartbeat of America all across this country,” Robertson said at November’s board of supervisors meeting. “Small businesses hire more people than large businesses do, but it is just two or three people at a place. But there are so many of them that it does bring in more employees.”
Throughout the resolution passed by supervisors in the days before Small Business Saturday, statistics reinforced the overall mission of the unofficial shopping holiday and the impact of small businesses.
“According to the United States Small Business Administration, there are currently 28.8 million small businesses in the United States, [representing] 99.7 percent of all businesses with employees in the United States [and they] are responsible for 63 percent of net new jobs created over the past 20 years,” an excerpt of the resolution read.
With numbers like these, Robertson believes it’s important to highlight the vital role small businesses play in Prince George’s economic prosperity.
“It is very important that our small businesses get a boost and acknowledgment that they are a part of our economy,” he said. “We appreciate every one of them, including our home-based businesses, and those that are computer-related where they are working from home through sales.”
According to the United States SBA, in 2012, home-based businesses made up just over half of the small businesses registered in America and that share continues to grow as more opportunities for home-based businesses become available to eager entrepreneurs.
In Prince George, Robertson said the county works to make it easy for businesses based in homes to get started, including making the special exception process as simple as possible for prospective business operators and those who would be living around said business.
“When someone buys a house in a subdivision, they don’t expect to have a daycare next to it with people blowing horns and kids yelling all day,” Robertson explained. “You expect a family to live there. You don’t expect 20 kids while you’re sleeping if you’re working the midnight shift. So they have to come get a special exception to make sure they are not disturbing other residents because those residents have the right to peace since they paid for it.”
“Anything that does not cause a disruption in the neighbor, they do not have a problem getting a special exception for a home-based business so we try to make it as simple as possible,” he continued. “At the same time, we look out for other people who have bought property on the other side of and across the road from them because they deserve the rights they have for buying that property.”
A subject on the minds of both home-based and brick-and-mortar small businesses is access to broadband internet to allow for their wares and services to be accessible to a wider pool of potential customers.
Earlier this year, in an effort to expand access to broadband services to more homes and businesses in the county, Prince George County entered into a three-party contract with Prince George Electric Cooperative and the county’s industrial development board to provide $1 million to PGEC, who will, in turn, connect 500 customers to their fiber network, which the cooperative is already constructing to link together its substations. PGEC Enterprises would then provide high-speed internet service to customers, with some receiving access to speeds not previously available in their area.
For Chairman Robertson, broadband access has a two-pronged effect for the county: providing services to businesses, both home-based and traditional, that would allow them to have increased access to the online marketplace and providing access to information and resources the county’s next generation of entrepreneurs will need while they attend the county’s schools.
“With broadband, you can work from home now that a lot of businesses now have computer elements that allow for that,” he said. “That is what we are looking when it comes to broadband.
Speaking to schools, Robertson said, “If the 11th and 12th graders that have to write reports and they aren’t able to get the information they need over dial-up because it’s burdensome, they need access to broadband or they have to go to a library where they can sit there and have that access. And most of them don’t drive, so the parents have to sit there while they use the computers.”
“This will help the children to be able to do what they need to do, along with college students who may be staying at home while attending classes,” he said. “It will help to provide things if the parents want to work from home or establish a home-based business.”
With Black Friday and Small Business Saturday seen as the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, data from the Small Business Administration suggests, on average, 33 percent of consumers’ holiday shopping will be done at small, independently-owned retailers and restaurants, with three-in-four people planning to go to one or more small businesses during the roughly one-month of holiday shopping since the day after Thanksgiving.
Robertson hopes that residents choose Prince George’s local businesses first for the shopping needs.
“We want people to buy here in Prince George County because that helps our businesses survive,” Robertson remarked. “Most of the small businesses that operate here, their owners and workers live in the county. So you’re spending your money where you made it. The more they spend in the county, the more it helps the county’s citizens that live here make their own living.”
“Prince George County is a great place to live and we have a lot of things here that makes a great place to live and work,” he closed.