Next month, it will be four years since I became the Business Liaison Chair for Responsible Growth for Northcross (RG4N).
I chose to get involved because I am a business owner, a small business activist and I live and work in the area.
Last night was the VIP opening of the more neighborhood-sized WalMart on Anderson Lane in Austin, Texas. The RG4N board was invited and several of us went including the original President, Paige Hill.
Our efforts to stop the supercenter were not about size as much as about the impact of that size. That impact includes traffic, litter, security, safety issues for those with disabilities, crime, air and water quality. It was also about the impact on locally owned stores that do not fare well with a big box, especially a WalMart, nearby.
This store, while not perfect, does some good things. I look forward to continued dialogue with the store manager, Scott Gray, on behalf of my fellow business owners from the area.
As Jason Meeker, our Vice President and Communications Chair said, RG4N hopes that people will realize that if things are going on that they don’t think are good for the neighborhood, they should voice their concerns. And, if they work together, they can make a difference.
Independent businesses are parts of our neighborhood. We could not have accomplished what we did without Alamo Drafthouse North, Discount Electronics, Encore Music, Genuine Joe’s Coffee, Kids N Cats, Scandinavia Contemporary Design, Thunderbird Coffee, Zingers and others. They did not just locate their businesses in the neighborhood they were actively engaged in what was going on. And these were the names that my fellow neighbors and board members thanked when we were being interviewed by the media.
What should that tell other independently owned businesses? That these businesses made friends for life. Those who live in the neighborhood see that businesses located in the neighborhood care. They are engaged.
It should also tell every owner that the role of business in neighborhoods should be more than giving donations to the local school or scout group. That’s good, but there’s more to do.
You chose that location for your retail or service business. Now choose to be involved in its future.
What can you do?
- Be a small business activist.
- Join your local Neighborhood Association or Home Owners Association if you can. There may be several in your area so look around. In Austin, there is a list of all known active associations at the Austin Neighborhood Council. Most have a membership category for businesses.
- Read the local neighborhood paper, join and participate in the online neighborhood association discussions or at least stay informed by talking to customers, those who live in the neighborhood, and owners of other local businesses.
- If there is something that will affect your neighbors, get involved. Offer places for them to meet or put out literature.
- Help recruit other local businesses that might not have heard about what their “community” is trying to do.
This way you give yourself some control over what happens. Besides, independent businesses can do things that chains and larger businesses can’t without getting permission from a corporate office which may or may not understand.
I know you are busy. So am I. This is not too much to ask. Your future is on the line here, too.
So, just do it. You’ll feel like you are part of something special. You will be. You’ll have a special kind of network. One in which there is give and take and people care about people. One that is about more than prospects and sales.
Finally, tell other businesses what you did. Together, you and your neighbors can keep your community the best it can be for everyone. After all, this is your “business neighborhood”, too. What happens to them effects you.
What have you done lately?