The Importance of Local Business for Communities

October 26, 2021

For many decades, technological advancements have allowed globalization and franchising to become more feasible for businesses. Communities have been eager to attract nationally recognized brands to conform to the status quo. However, as retailers and recognizable brands have become more common, the obsession with them by urban planning committees and community developers will turn away attention over the long term. To provide an example of how these brands can be detrimental to a community, I will explain one of my experiences in Paris, France.

I was staying in Paris with American colleagues when we had planned to go on a shopping trip. We were expecting to see many unrecognizable brands and boutique stores as Paris holds the title of one of the “fashion capitals of the world”. To our surprise, it was very difficult to find boutique stores and we often encountered recognizable brands that we could shop at back in our hometowns. These global brands took away from our goal to experience the Parisian culture as it seemed that in some areas, Paris was becoming just like the cities we know back in the United States.

The consequence of global brands is that they sacrifice a community’s culture and identity, making them less attractive to potential residents and visitors. Communities that want to grow and become more recognized need to understand how to create and leverage a culture. This is done mostly through local entrepreneurship that results in boutique cafés, restaurants, and clothing stores. Consider the role cowboy hats and barbecue chicken has had on shaping Nashville’s culture, and how the city would be different if these things were taken away.

To consider a more familiar example, examine the city of Columbus. Here, the area known as the Short North is considered to be one of the most fun places to be by Columbus locals and visitors and plays a major role in the culture of the city. What is unique about the Short North is that it consist almost entirely of retailers that are either locally owned or possess very few locations. This results in an experience that can only be had in the Short North and nowhere else, giving people reason to visit and a sense of culture and community.

In conclusion, communities should consider how much they are encouraging local entrepreneurship and if they are successfully developing a culture. Failure to do so will result in a bland environment that is only visited for quick shopping needs and never for genuine interest. A community that successfully cultivates a unique culture will experience growth and success by becoming well known in the area and intriguing to outsiders.

Written by Michael Ross, Development Associate