More than half of all Mississippi businesses employ four workers or less. Now, that’s what I call small business! While we tend to focus on large corporations and large numbers of jobs, it’s the small businesses who contribute to our economy in meaningful ways.
The Rust Belt has been known for its dependence on large manufacturing plants or large corporate offices. Over the last few years, the wisdom of such an economy has been questioned. In Ohio, when a big service center closes, an entire town disappears. In Michigan, when an automotive plant closes, an entire region is shuttered. In Mississippi, the closure of a business may mean the loss of a few jobs and, typically, doesn’t usually lead to the decline of a town or region.
But economic developers still chase the big fish, offering tax incentives and other types of aid, just for the chance to grab those jobs. I’m not sure we are serving ourselves well by always giving away the farm to big corporations. Any corporate giveaways should be carefully studied for long-term benefits and carefully structured to avoid gaming of the system.
And we need to find ways to encourage and support small start-ups. Business incubators, mentoring support and capital access should be available to anyone willing to turn an idea into a business. It’s like the old adage, “Give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.” Let’s don’t just hand someone a job. Let’s teach them how to create their own jobs. They will learn to feed themselves, and, if we’re lucky, four more people.
A disclaimer… for the past 20 years, I’ve run my own small business. We have a total of four employees.