Small business ownership has been a pathway to the middle class for generations, and continues to be a crucial tool for building community wealth and economic justice. Building a successful small business involves overcoming many challenges, and it’s even harder if you’ve faced discrimination, you’re new to the country, or don’t have money from your family to help you get started.
Over 90% of American companies are small businesses; small businesses in their first five years of operation create nearly all the net new jobs in our country; and women, minority, and immigrant business owners are all 3x more likely to start a business than anyone else. So when politicians who talk about good jobs put their money where their mouths are, you’d assume they were laser-focused on empowering locally-grown small businesses owned by women and people of color — right?
Before Thanksgiving we were all treated to Amazon’s announcement that it would split its second headquarters between New York City and the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC, already the largest economic and political hubs. Both cities have major issues when it comes to funding infrastructure, public education, and affordable housing. New York has already promised Amazon over $3 billion in public subsidies (paying Amazon roughly $112,000 per job). Beyond that, The Long Island City project site is in an Opportunity Zone. So high-net-worth individuals who have large unrealized capital gains (e.g., long-term Amazon shareholders) can invest in the project and avoid federal capital gains tax – a misuse of the Opportunity Zones that impact investors have feared. Researchers have estimated that Amazon’s HQ2 could push as many as 800 people into homelessness in New York City and Northern Virginia.
Steve Case, the billionaire co-founder of AOL and the leader behind Rise Of The Rest, says that every city not selected by Amazon should breathe a sigh of relief and see it as a tremendous opportunity. “The message I tried to carry forward with the 236 cities that applied and lost is if they take half of the energy they put in their Amazon bid and half of the dollars they put on a table for their Amazon bid and refocus it on their startup community, they can create the next Amazon,” he said.
More Americans work in retail than in manufacturing or mining. The rise of Amazon over the past decade has accelerated the collapse of traditional retail outlets, but contrary to popular belief it’s not because those small businesses aren’t competitive. In many cases, it’s because public policy and concentrated market power are working against them.
Amazon didn’t come to dominate the way we shop because of its technology. It did so because state, local, and federal governments give Amazon (and its fellow corporate giants) tremendous tax advantages and public subsidies while letting them take over an ever-increasing share of the economy by purchasing more and more of their competitors, like Zappos. According to The New Republic, Wall Street analysts have a “Death by Amazon” index to track companies most likely to be killed off by the online giant. In fact, since Amazon’s inception it’s killed two better-paying jobs for every one job it creates. Up until now that damage was limited to retail, but now that Amazon is expanding into groceries (by buying Whole Foods) and many more hundreds of thousands of jobs could be erased by one company.
This is all a race to the bottom: most of today’s distressed communities have seen zero net gains in employment and business establishment since 2000. In fact, more than half have seen net losses on both fronts. The fact that we can now connect the lack of a truly competitive free market with the decline of good jobs in America isn’t shocking, but it is troubling.
At PCV, we work day in and day out to give small and local business owners across every corner of the US the tools and free advice they need to compete with the Amazons of the world, create good local jobs that can’t be outsourced, and generate wealth for their families and their communities. PCV Small Business Advising gives Main Street businesses the same tools and resources that drive bigger companies to greater success: pairing an entrepreneur with an expert business advisor. If we help empower small business owners to increase their competitiveness while at the same time creating quality jobs with better wages, then every community and worker benefits.
It’s because of the small army of professionals, experts, and seasoned entrepreneurs who volunteer their time to mentor business owners through our platform, that any of this is possible. Volunteering—so many people want to do it, but in our busy lives it’s safe to say that many of us don’t feel like we’re doing it enough. Whether you have a tight schedule or are finding it difficult to find your volunteer-niche, virtual volunteering can offer a solution. In recent weeks, we’ve been sharing the stories of some of our advisors like Sherri Beasley, Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development at Children’s Health in Tennessee. And Jenna Cafiero, a Program Manager at Google.You can see more of these great stories on the blog.
If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking “who has time to volunteer?” the truth is it takes less than 5 hours a month to make a big difference in someone else’s life. Don’t worry if you’ve never worked for or run your own small business. We’ll match you with the right small business based on what you can contribute.
- If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering, you can learn more here.
- In fact, your entire company might be able to work with us! You can learn more about that here.
- If your CDFI or community organization is interested in working with us to pilot tools and resources to help small business owners creat good jobs, contact us here.
- PCV also invests in California companies that create good local jobs, through our Quality Jobs Fund. You can learn more here.
As part of our vision to make quality job creation the norm, we believe we must equip small businesses with the practical tools and resources they need to offer higher quality jobs in a way that balances their business needs and bottom lines with better wages and benefits for their employees. We know that small businesses want to provide good employment opportunities for their workers – but they are often uncertain of how to do so in ways that make sense for their business. We’re committed to enabling them to succeed.