Local Policy Action Spotlight: Nine Policies Your City Can Adopt to Grow Independent Businesses [3]

Last year, the Advocates for Independent Business [4] (AIB) and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance [5] (ILSR) launched the Local Policy Action Toolkit [6]. The toolkit offers independent business owners and retailers tips for engaging with their city officials and advocating for policies that strengthen and grow local businesses.

Over the next few months, Bookselling This Week will be taking a renewed look at the toolkit and highlighting aspects of this comprehensive resource. “The Local Policy Action Toolkit is an invaluable resource that can help independent booksellers effectively advocate to lawmakers at the local, state, and federal level,” said David Grogan, director, ABFE, advocacy and public policy for the American Booksellers Association, a founding member of AIB. “Since we know very well that independent booksellers are incredibly busy, we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight key aspects of the toolkit.”

This week will focus on “Nine Policies Your City Can Adopt to Grow Independent Businesses.”

Independent entrepreneurs and small businesses often face barriers that hinder their growth. Here, we outline nine policy approaches you can support to address these barriers, and we include examples from cities across the U.S. that have already taken action. In the toolkit, you’ll see a detailed overview and examples of each of the following policies:

Prioritize local businesses in city purchasing. By buying goods and services from local independent businesses, city governments can keep economic activity, employment, and tax revenue local.

Decrease red tape for small business. Making it easier for small business owners and new start-ups to navigate permitting and other processes means they have more time and resources to invest back into their businesses and the community.

Create a built environment that supports local businesses. Communities that maintain varied and walkable environments with diverse building types have a proven track record of creating more local small businesses.

Get rising commercial rents under control. Keeping commercial rents affordable will broaden the number of local businesses that take root and succeed, and it will also prevent the displacement of businesses that meet the daily needs of the neighborhood. 

Keep the retail mix balanced. Business districts thrive with variety. Setting limits on the number of chain or “formula” stores keeps a healthy balance and ensures room for a diversity of local businesses to succeed.

Help local entrepreneurs turn vacant buildings into new businesses. Creating adaptive reuse programs supports independent businesses’ needs for diverse spaces and helps communities use their existing building stock to its full potential.

Ensure new development has space that’s suitable for local businesses. Zoning requirements on new development that reserve or “set aside” space for local businesses can ensure new buildings provide space that’s suitable for small businesses and entrepreneurs just getting started.

Reorient economic development programs. By tightening subsidy and incentive programs that go disproportionately to big business, local governments can get a bigger return by instead making investments in broad public goods that benefit all local employers.

Expand local businesses’ access to capital. By educating entrepreneurs about local lenders and supporting local banking and credit union institutions, communities can help ensure that local businesses secure the financing they need to succeed.

For more information, check out the Local Policy Action Toolkit [6].