On Tuesday September 12th the Richmond City Council will host a meeting where the 13 applicants for the vacated Council seat (created when Councilmember McLaughlin resigned to seek the Lt. Governor's seat). Each applicant will be allowed 8 minutes to address the Council and the public to explain why they would be the best choice to fill the vacancy.
Radio Free Richmond has invited each of the applicants to pen about 500 words and provide a headshot photo.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding ways to attract businesses and thereby jobs to Richmond. While that's a worthwhile endeavor, it may not be the best use of our resources. Communities typically try to attract business through tax breaks and other special provisions to appear more desirable. But the reality is that 99.7% of business in America is small business.
The benefits of small businesses are many; a large firm will generally employ specialized workers most of whom will commute from other cities. The wages those employees earn are then spent in their home communities. The same goes for some of the taxes they pay.
Small businesses are local, their employees generally live in the community and shop here. Small businesses are more likely to be invested in the community. In lieu of tax breaks, small businesses are more likely to utilize small business loans which are then repaid back into community coffers.
Barrack Obama said "Small businesses embody the promise of America: that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard enough, you can succeed in our country."
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy, small businesses have generated 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years. The SBA considers companies with less than 500 employees to be small businesses, which encompasses 99.7% of all businesses that have employees in the U.S. under that umbrella term. The flip side to this argument is that small business tends to be more volatile, but decisions by large businesses can have catastrophic local consequences as can be seen from Richmond's history.
Besides refocusing its attention on building its small business, Richmond would benefit from creating a "center" to attract visitors. A typical complaint about Richmond I've heard (from non-Richmond folks) is that there is no "there there". The Craneway Pavilion is an impressive response, but its a bit remote for most locals. Perhaps more can be done with the renovated Civic Center complex and the Richmond Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center to attract tourists to our town. Maybe even highlighting some of Richmond's street artists and encouraging more murals.
I see a lot of opportunity in Richmond. Lets make our town shine!