Local ownership is key to Half Moon Bay’s prosperity


By on Thu, September 17, 2009

Barbara Campbell is proprietor of the Music Hut, Main Street, Half Moon Bay. This letter was intended as a comment on the HMB Film Society’s upcoming film about the economics of Main Street America
Like everywhere else across America, the recession has slowed Half moon Bay’s economy, yet we are actually doing better than many comparable communities.  One likely reason is the high percentage of businesses independently and locally owned.
While we sit and lament the “good ole days†of Half Moon Bay, the economy takes its toll and chains continue to displace locally owned businesses.

Local independent businesses are critical to our community prosperity, not just because independent businesses create the overwhelming majority of new jobs here, but it is the kinds of jobs they create.  Whether they hire staff directly or contract to other businesses, they create opportunities for local designers, accountants, computer consultants, attorneys, our young people, retirees and many other skilled positions. Independents also carry a higher percentage of locally-produced products and foods than the chains, meaning more jobs for local farmers and manufacturing.

In contrast, a new chain store typically is a clone of all their other units, eliminating the need for local planning and minimizing use of local goods and services.  Those economies of scale boost corporate profits but detract from the local economy. Few of the jobs involve career opportunities, and profits are exported promptly to corporate headquarters. That’s one of several reasons local independents return three or more times the money to the local economy as chains (and definitely more than remote or online businesses).  With overall economic activity down, capitalizing on this local premium is critical.
Keep this in mind when you hear a PR person from a chain claim how many new jobs it will bring. Studies indicate they displace as many jobs as they create.  And when some local communities actually studied the local impact f a chain, they concluded such development actually costs more taxpayer dollars to support in safety and services than the community would reap. Similarly when we are bombarded with advertising designed to make us think better deals are found at chains or online, when one actually looks at the overall value, price, but also the quality of products and services, you will often find the independent business comes out on top.

Our local charities also rely on independent businesses for support.  What would Senior Coastsiders be without all the local involvement from businesses, or the too-many-to mention fundraisers for all the schools, sport teams, and day cares.
But dispite dismal trends for mom and pops in recent years, a counter force is building. In the past decade, more than sixty communities have launched Independent Business Alliances—coalitions of local businesses, non profits and concerned citizens uniting to support  local entrepreneurs and prevent chains from displacing local businesses. Through group purchasing, joint marketing, public education and political advocacy we can make changes. It is time for us to use these tools and start developing a plan for our city. Stop and think what it would be like if Main Street were a ghost town.  Independent businesses are an intregal part of why we live here and what gives Half Moon Bay a unique identity.