Hudson’s businesses should build alliancesSmall, locally owned businesses are treasures that reinvest heavily in a community, provide more new jobs than any other sector and enrich the cultural and creative capital in communities like Hudson.
By: Steve Dzubay, Hudson Star-Observer
Small, locally owned businesses are treasures that reinvest heavily in a community, provide more new jobs than any other sector and enrich the cultural and creative capital in communities like Hudson.
And the more these independents work together for the greater good, the greater the reward for both area residents and businesses themselves, said Michael Levinson, executive director of BUILD St. Louis, a 160-member small business organization in the greater St. Louis area.
Levinson was in town two days last week, championing independent business and offering advice during meetings with city officials, Chamber members and members of Hudson’s Daybreak Rotary Club. His visit was organized by the Hudson Independent Business Association, a wing of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.
Levinson, 28, holds degrees in business finance and community economic development from Georgetown University. After college, he discovered a small business alliance model in Boulder, Colo., and has helped spread the gospel of working together in 40 cities around the nation.
“It’s like finding a voice,” said Levinson, dropping his volume to a whisper. “When I whisper, you can’t hear me. If you’re just one person with a small marketing budget, it’s tough to get much attention.”
But when businesses come together, they can “create a social brand that communicates the power of local ownership.”
As a kid, Levinson said he hated broccoli, but his mother hounded him to eat it because it contained important nutritional value and was generally good for him. He urged Chamber members to feed their independent businesses in like fashion so area residents start to view them as “hometown heroes.”
“‘I love driving by them. They look so quaint!’”, said Levinson, mimicking observations by non-customers who like the “feel” of local coffee shops, florists and themed retailers.
But he challenged HiBA members to “redefine their value” by informing would-be shoppers that locally owned shops boost property values, offer superior service, carry customized products and are directly accountable to every customer.
The concept isn’t foreign to major manufacturers, Levinson said, citing Apple’s recent introduction of its iPhone, a device that offers little more than many existing cellular products but has already won widespread acceptance through its marketing moxie and well-known reputation.
He urged Hudson small businesses to “get active, find your voice and join together,” identify collaborators and contact them, and assemble a “did-you-know” list about their business. All these actions will help cement an “informed and motivated group of consumers that supports independents.”
“What do you excel at? What do you know and do well? These things may not be well-communicated in your marketing now,” said Levinson.
Earlier Tuesday, Levinson addressed some members of the city’s downtown planning group. He asserts that independent businesses represent “sustainable economic development”, again, because of the higher level of reinvestment and the vibrancy they add to a community.
He urged HiBA members to encourage local leaders to implement “buy local” procurement policies, establish caps on formula stores and push for help in building a municipal “brand” around independent stores.
“The city folks aren’t going to do it without being asked. Get a group together, approach them and offer to help write the policies,” said Levinson.
Levinson said he thought Hudson was a great community with a distinctive local “feel” to its shopping and dining experiences.
For more information, he suggested several Web sites: