Business Perspectives

Economic development at the personal level

As I watch all the buzz about attracting Amazon’s second headquarters, I can relate to the excitement. But a part of me can’t help but envision a giant empty warehouse in southeast Kansas.

The abandoned Amazon Fulfillment Facility is hardly the same thing as the new headquarters, but it reminds me that big business gains are great, but there can be big business losses as well. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to bring and retain big businesses in our community, but I think it’s important that we don’t allow them to completely overshadow the small business and startups that are so vital to our local economy.

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As the Kauffman Foundation put it, “Incentives targeting existing companies miss the economy's real engine of job creation: new and young businesses, which create nearly all net new jobs in the United States, a fact that also holds true at the state and city level.”

In September, I was lucky enough to attend the first ever 1 Million Cups Global Summit. For those of you who don’t know, 1 Million Cups is a forum focused on letting new businesses (less than 5 years old) share an informative presentation on their company and answer questions posed by the community.

On the third day of the conference, I was honored to lead a round table discussion focusing on entrepreneurship and community building. We were 22 diverse people from across the country talking about why we made 1 Million Cups happen in our community, and our answer was that we truly believe that entrepreneurship is economic development at the personal level. We came from a variety of fields – from an economic development director to a free-lance writer – but we all had in common that we loved our communities and felt that we could make a difference by promoting local startups and small businesses.=

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I think it makes a lot of sense for all of us. I don’t know what I can do to keep an Amazonian business in town, but I can use a local startup for goods and services I need, and it matters. I can share my experience and make my friends and neighbors aware of what these new companies are doing, and it matters. I can be supportive, flexible and understanding, letting these entrepreneurs know I am thrilled to have them in our community, and it matters.

Now I know that for every local success, we can all picture an empty store front. But I think there is a real difference between these buildings and the massive empty warehouse. A local entrepreneur is likely to stay local. They might not succeed initially, but often with support and a sense of community they will learn and try again – very likely right here.

So, I encourage you to learn what amazing local products and services are available here, purchase them when you can, support and share them even if you can’t, and make a difference.

Don’t know where to start? Come out to 1 Million Cups (every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Distillery 244, 244 N Mosley St.), join us for Pitch Parade or any of the other Accelerate the Heartland events (on Facebook – Accelerate the Heartland), or come out to our Launch Prep demo day in December. We all benefit if you do.

Brandy Willett is manager of operations and the e2e Incubator at e2e Accelerator. Contact her at brandy@e2 eaccelerator.com.

Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Marcia Werts at mwerts@wichitaeagle.com or 316-269-6762.

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