America the Ugly

By: Michelle Thimesch (2018)

On a recent visit to St. George, Utah, I was struck by the stark contrast between the natural beauty of the landscape that surrounds this small city and the nondescript, Anywhere USA, feel of the town itself. It would be a challenge to identify a single national fast food or retail chain that is not represented in this town of 80,000.

At any given time, one sees lines at every fast food drive-thru while the quaint Town Square and the nearby Kayenta Art Village receive relatively little traffic.
A similar scene is playing itself out across many of America’s cities and small towns in particular. Limited access to capital for small businesses and startups means that fewer and fewer local entrepreneurs are able to fund their dreams or share their innovations and services with the communities they love.

As a result, local character, charm, and revenue begin to fade away. Only $43 per $100 spent at national chains stays in a local economy, contrasted with $68 per $100 only $43 per $100 spent at national chains stays in a local economy, contrasted with $68 per $100 spent on local businesses.

This $25 difference in spending per $100 in community contribution between local and national business chains is profound. It means the difference between living wage and minimum wage jobs.

It means reduced access to quality, dedicated professionals, like teachers and firefighters. It means the loss of half the contributions to local charitable causes. It means increased energy and environmental costs for greater transportation needs.

And it means the loss of the passion and expertise of local business owners who know and understand the needs of their customers.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Newer national laws enable anyone (not just accredited investors) to invest in the small businesses and start-ups that will have a real impact on their community.

There is already a growing grassroots movement to shift capital from Wall Street to Main Street, and the good news is that it won’t take much to spark a huge influx of money into our local economies.

If just 1% of the $30 trillion in stock market value can be redirected towards local communities, that $300 billion dollar shot in the arm will go a long way towards remaking America the Beautiful.


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