Small IS beautiful

February 9th, 2012 atam Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Do you miss the neighbourhood grocery store that was forced to close by high rent? Or the bakery or cha chaan teng that’s had to make way for an international coffee chain or fast food outlet?

Increasingly, the small businesses on which Hong Kong was built have had to give way to corporate brands/chains, creating a dull urban landscape in which every district is almost identical by virtue of having the same shops. While the government’s so-called laissez faire policy encourages the takeover of the local economy by big corporate players, the city is slowly losing the dynamism and entrepreneurship that make it what it is as well as the happy, healthy population that it needs to sustain its development.

A study carried out by sociologists at Louisiana University and Baylor University in the US indicates that parts of the country with a higher concentration of small, local businesses have healthier populations than those dominated by big players.

The researchers analysed the number of small businesses per 100,000 people, categorising small business as those with four or fewer employees; large manufacturing establishments as those with 500 or more employees; and large retailers as those with 100 or more employees.

“Some communities appear to have thriving small business sectors that feature entrepreneurial cultures that promote public health. A place like this has a can-do climate, a practical problem-solving approach in which a community takes control of its own destiny,” said co-author Dr Charles M. Tolbert, chair of the sociology department at Baylor.

“When someone creates a ‘mom and pop’ business, it’s a huge step to bring that first employee on board. If it’s a relative or neighbour, they’ll bend over backward to hire and retain them. They’re going to bring on board somebody they trust, and they’ll pull every hair and every tooth in their head before they lay off someone who’s their neighbour,” he said.

In other words, small businesses feel an obligation to the community which is real, in contrast to large corporations which have to artificially create that sense of community by invoking “corporate social responsibility”. Thus, when these small businesses are forced out, social cohesion is lost. That hurts the health of the community as a whole.

One Response to “Small IS beautiful”

  1. I couldn’t agree more.

    That’s the main reason why I don’t go in supermarkets and convenience stores anymore, unless absolutely necessary.

    The only times I ever go there is when those are the only thing still open and I failed to plan my purchase, or for some products that I still haven’t figured out where to buy outside of BigStore.

    Both cases are failures on my part though, and with time they get rarer and rarer.

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