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Spend Your Dollars Wisely

01 April 2024

I was recently involved in a discussion that reminded me of a column I wrote years ago. The column focused on the town of Laurel, Mississippi, and how they have blossomed into a thriving community in a few short years. I would like to share just a few of the ingredients that are attributed to assisting this community in their turnaround efforts. Having been associated with the Mainstreet organization for several years, I was blessed to meet and get to know Ed McMahan, the chair emeritus on the Mainstreet Board of Directors at the time. Let me start by sharing a few statistics worth noting by Ed McMahan in this piece.


Ed indicated in his 2021 column, “In the last year alone — and during a global pandemic — Mississippi Main Street reported nearly 600 net new jobs and nearly 200 net new businesses in designated Main Street communities. Yet politicians love nothing better than a ribbon cutting for a big new factory or distribution center.”


Ed goes on to say, “In fact, as much as 90% of state economic development dollars in the U.S. go to large companies, according to a 2015 Good Jobs First study. Take, for example, Nissan’s Canton factory, which employs about 5,000 people. To attract the plant, the state of Mississippi provided roughly $1.3 billion in subsidies over the first decade of operation — which works out to more than $200,000 per new job. There’s no doubt projects like these have economic value. But too often, support for small businesses and small towns is overlooked. Contrast the amount of money the state put into the Nissan plant with the amount it allocated to Mississippi Main Street. Over the last six years, the nonprofit helped its Main Street communities create more than 8,000 net new jobs with less than $500,000 in state funding — averaging $62.50 in state investment per job created.”


As we can see with the quote and statistics, when you compare the financial cost to the state, investing in their local communities is hands down the best return on the dollar. Taking it down to the local level, for local communities with very few, if any tax dollars to spend, those dollars must be well spent or placed in just the right area to fully maximize their limited resources.  It is no secret as to why investing locally is a great investment.  Local communities and their business base tend to reinvest back into their community in much larger and more consistent basis than their corporate counterparts.


Ed pounds home a huge point we have made many times in this weekly column, locally owned small businesses have always accounted for many job creations throughout the country. In fact, according to the Small Business Association, approximately 65% of ALL job creation in the country was created by locally owned and operated small businesses.   


Communities understanding the true value of investing in their locally owned business base will always fare better than those that do little to support that local foundation.  A community with a strong local business base will always have better civic engagement, they will always be more involved, they will always be more attractive to tourists, they will always be better self-sustained and not reliant upon corporate America. They will always have a more stable tax base from which to plan and execute.


While having a large bucket of financial resources is always nice, don’t be discouraged if your community doesn’t fall into that category. It isn’t always about who has the most to invest, it is more often than not, about who invests what they have more wisely.  Any local community that invests the predominance of resources in their local business and resident base will ultimately succeed. To take from a quote that I have used often, invest wisely, invest your money where your house is.


John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Chambers, Communities, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column appears in 60+ newspapers and media outlets. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists chambers, communities, media, and businesses in creating synergies that build vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.