Posted on September 2, 2009
Editor's note: Readers may recognize some of the ideas below from previous blog entries. The issue is still relevant and urgent. The following piece was just featured in the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Community Development Investment Review.
Since the global financial system unraveled in 2008, U.S. policymakers have struggled heroically to improve the performance and oversight of global banks and investment firms. But these actions have been largely unresponsive to the growing number of Americans who would like to remove their hard-earned retirement savings from these high financial fliers altogether and invest their nest eggs in their community. Might it be time for policymakers to consider the potential stimulus payoffs from nurturing micro-equity investments?
One reason for growing public interest in local investment is the spread of “buy local” campaigns, a movement that is more than just local hucksterism. Consider the title of an article in a recent issue of Time: “Buying Local: How It Boosts the Economy.” Cutting-edge economic developers (except at the national level) increasingly recognize is the importance of strengthening locally owned, small businesses.
Growing evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit—measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue—than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. That is because locally owned businesses spend much more of their money locally and thereby pump up the so-called economic multiplier. Other studies suggest that local businesses are critical to tourism, walkable communities, entrepreneurship, social equality, civil society, charitable giving, revitalized
downtowns, and even political participation.
Despite this overwhelming body of evidence, the national stimulus efforts have proceeded with no specific attention to local businesses. Yet even some very simple reforms that opened up local businesses to local investors could make a huge difference. — read more
Posted on April 3, 2009
Alissa and I are excited to announce that, effective this week, the Small-Mart Initiative is joining forces with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE, based in San Francisco. Our offices will remain in Washington, and our efforts will continue to focus on nurturing local businesses and promoting community self-reliance. Of particular importance to those of you who regularly read our blog, our regular commentaries will continue—except that there will be even more of them, from more voices in our movement.
We'd like to take a few minutes to lay out for you our plans: some history about our work, some background on BALLE, and some information about what these changes mean about our existing resources and next projects. — read more
Posted on March 13, 2009
At a time when daily headlines bring worse and worse news about the plight of rural economies, it's worth reminding ourselves that success is possible.
Last autumn, Marian Burros of the New York Times wrote a piece about how the 3000-person community of Hardwick, Vermont, has prospered by creating a new "economic cluster" around local food. Cutting-edge restaurants, artisan cheese makers, and organic orchardists turning fruit into exquisite pies are just some of the new businesses that have added an estimated 75-100 jobs to the area in recent years. A new Vermont Food Venture Center hopes to accelerate this creation of enterprises.
Posted on February 16, 2009
I'm afraid I agree with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and nearly all the congressional Republicans that the pork in the approved "stimulus bill" is nauseating. It takes the worst ideas in economic development – massive payouts to government white elephant projects and gigantic incentives to attract, retain or otherwise bribe global corporations – and puts them on steroids. I'm not condemning every line in the package, but the careless and thoughtless way this bill was assembled, packaged, and shoved through Congress ought to give small-mart advocates pause about the priorities of the new administration. — read more
Posted on January 30, 2009
Now that the street cleaners have finally swept up the signs, flags, confetti and other debris left by the millions who came for the inaugural last week, we can finally return to the critical issues of policy. I'm pleased to report that the Obama Transition Team asked us to join their teams working on sustainable business and socially responsible investment. What will become of our recommendations, I don't know, but the fact we were invited to share our view – and that key policymakers in the administration were listening – represented a huge sea-change.
Below is the memo we submitted, incorporating many of the points you've seen on this blog over the past six months. We welcome your input. Let us know what you think, and what else you would add to this wish list. — read more
Posted on November 25, 2008
Many of you were probably dancing in the streets on election night. I was – even though I identify myself as an independent. That the country will finally enjoy a leader who actually cares about ideas, who speaks grammatical English, who believes in science more than ideology, who doesn't see ecological or women's rights as liberal conspiracies, who exudes discipline, confidence, and charisma, who sincerely cares about the have-nots in society, and who won’t always resort to war as the answer to every national security problem is a huge relief.
But beware. Or, more precisely, be wary. — read more
Posted on November 11, 2008
As the global financial system destroys decades' worth of Americans' savings, the relative calm and stability surrounding community-based financial institutions is striking. Locally owned banks and credit unions, which rarely got involved with predatory loans or resold their loans on global markets, are faring remarkably well. — read more
Posted on September 30, 2008
Congress thinks it's about to "solve" the nation's deepening financial crisis with a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. What's being overlooked is that one of the fundamental causes is the erosion of place-based investing. And a fundamental solution has to be an expansion of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). — read more
Posted on September 18, 2008
The presidential season usually brings silly proposals, but a particularly atrocious idea this year is to revive nuclear power. John McCain deserves an "F" for wanting to build 45 new nuclear plants, and Barack Obama no better than a "C" for failing to criticize McCain's position with any coherence. — read more
By Guest Commentator Patty Cantrell
Posted on July 18, 2008
It is 1974 in Springfield, Missouri, and they are still showing movies downtown at a theater on the city's Park Central Square. I am 10 years old, and my sister and I are thrilled to be out on that sweltering summer night with our very cool Aunt Robin and Uncle Romie. We're off to see Herbie the Love Bug Rides Again. The smash Disney hit is about a lovable, racing-striped Volkswagen Beetle who saves a little old lady and her historic home from the wrecking ball of "progress." — read more