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Celebration time

By Jordanna Thigpen

May 19, 2006

Small Business Week is drawing to a close here in the City, but the small business community is only just getting started. A shy, yet bold invitation: will you celebrate us, and yourself?

Small Business Week in San Francisco is a partnership between the Small Business Commission and the federal Small Business Administration. Together, these entities, with the help of a stellar executive committee including the Small Business Development Center, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Wells Fargo, the Golden Restaurant Association, the San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and many volunteers, produced a week's worth of events for San Francisco. Friday and Saturday will be the crown jewels, featuring neighborhood events. Small Business Week is really a celebration of the small business community.

But what are we really celebrating? What does "small business" really mean to the San Francisco community?

25,000 companies in San Francisco employ between 1 and 20 workers, and 69,252 companies have no employees - generating nearly $4 billion in output. Employment in these so-called "micro-enterprises" (although some are not micro at all - they include consultants, legal experts, architects, doctors, designers, graphic artists, et al.) Businesses with fewer than fifty employees are found throughout the San Francisco economy, but are concentrated in professional services, retail trade, and food services. Gross receipts of small businesses has increased from $3 billion in 1997 to $4 billion in 2003. So one thing we are celebrating is the fact that small business is the single most important factor in the success of San Francisco.

What is the best aspect of small business? It's the fact that, overwhelmingly, we are local.

The local economy is the future economy. Locally-owned and independent businesses are the cornerstone of a community's economy because owner/residents are in stewardship status, and employees have an individual interest in the success of the company. The local economy has far-reaching implications for the success of our society.

Local businesses are much more likely to do business with other local businesses - thus ensuring the continued viability of the community. The October 2004 Andersonville Study of Retail Economics found that for every $100 spent in Chicago's North Side, $68 remained in the Chicago economy, vs. $43 for a multinational chain store.

Local businesses are much more likely to pay their employees humane and living wages, because they see employees as part of the community. They are much less likely to see employees as expendable chattel, possible sources of tax subsidies, or just plain necessary trouble, as Wal-Mart has. They are much more likely to use alternative, innovative forms of ownership such as cooperatives.

Here in San Francisco you are seeing the glorious impact of the local economy every day, everywhere you go. And you, as a consumer, are the asbestos in the packing of our economy: the driving force. We have always been on the cutting edge in the Bay Area (it's OK to gloat for just a second, but don't tell anyone). The San Francisco small business community is making this city more sustainable, more livable, and investing more every day, to enhance our city's elegant and nimble spirit.

So, this week, we all celebrate ourselves.

District 6 resident Jordanna Thigpen is an attorney, small business owner and President of the San Francisco Small Business Commission. You can usually find her at work and she doesn't get to Ocean Beach often enough. Email Jordanna at jgthigpen@gmail.com.




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