Because many of us have voiced concern about what is happening to businesses in our area. I decided to ask a few questions in order to do a lot of listening and came up with quite a bit of information to share.
Just think of your favorite shop of restaurant. I’ll bet it is a community-based business and you probably even know the owner. Our community-based businesses are an integral part of community character, employ the services of other local businesses, carry locally made goods and often serve as community hubs. They are the establishments to which local citizens go because they are owned by our friends and neighbors. Why then, do so many of our friends and neighbors have to close their businesses?
No simple answer exists, but let’s look at a few examples based on personal observation. Fiscal backing is often impossible to come by, thus causing some business owners to try to operate on a shoe string budget. Inexperienced entrepreneurs find that fixed costs, such as taxes, insurance and utilities, consume a large part of their budget and are then shocked by volatile labor and product costs that create budget nightmares. The shortage in the labor market, often filled by inexperienced workers, could easily be chalked up to the many government programs for the unemployed. On top of all these problems, the business people are faced with tons of government regulations, sue-happy customers and employees, as well as lease/rent contracts with almost total indifference to the owners’ circumstances or the local economy. Sometimes, employers and employees lack loyalty to each other as do customers who are disloyal to community-based businesses. And then street vendors swoop in to take from the community by paying no taxes, hiring no labor and taking their profits out of town.
We also discussed the notion that businesses could improve, thus ensuring the probability of a solid customer base and leading to growth and success. Customer service could include a simple acknowledgement that one is important and should receive a friendly greeting. Updating a stagnant atmosphere just naturally makes the customer feel better because they appreciate a clean environment. As one owner said, “The Statue of Liberty says, “bring me your sick, your tired,” but it didn’t say to stay that way. If you want ‘huddled masses,’ clean up your environment.”
If businesses could actually have advertised products on hand, the customers would be pleased enough to return to spend more money. Pursuing sales would also cause less tension because many of us dislike being ignored after having inquired about products and being promised later action. When that later action never occurs, we tend to shop elsewhere. Many of us like quality and are willing to pay the price if nice things are stocked.
According to caring business people, we as friends and neighbors can help our local business stay in business in business by shopping with them instead of out of town. If we band together, create community awareness, be proud of what we do have and work toward helping improve business, we will strengthen our economic base and find that “Shop Tucumcari” really has a meaning. Just how much do we save by going out of town because we saw an ad for cheaper prices? We spend much money on gas, buy impulsively at times, and often eat fairly expensive meals, thus spending more than we would have spent at home.
We are actually a very small town – not a metropolis – and need to realize that we must try to help our local businesses grow and prosper. The more we spend locally, the more businesses can purchase and can hire more employees who will then have paychecks to put back into the community. Businesses, consumers and local government definitely need to band together in order to strengthen our small town so it can grown and prosper.