Monday, May 23, 2005

Andersonville Study: The Value of Small Business

The proliferation of box stores around the county has resulted in a new trend in economic analysis. This trend, supporting the findings of organizations like the Institute for Self Reliance, seeks to underscore the intrinsic value of the local economy and to contrast this value with the benefits of box stores. The Andersonville Study, done by a firm called Civic Economics, was conducted in the north Chicago neighborhood of the same name and sought to compare the economic impact of the neighborhood’s locally-owned businesses and compare that with the impact of competitive chains.

In a fashion similar to the Institute of Self-Reliance’s Maine study, Civic Economics found that local merchants generate substantially greater economic impact than chain firms and that “replacement of local businesses with chains will reduce the overall vigor of the local economy” (pg 1).

Which gets us back to the overall issue of economic impact studies. Will the EIS sponsored by Related for its Gateway project begin to examine these issues at all, let alone with the same degree of sophistication? The nuances of local vs. chain are manifold:

1) What is the value added of local retail being predominately minority-owned?
2) What about the neighborhood values of local walk-to-shop commercial strips?

3) What about the replacement of unionized supermarket workers with non-unionized employees?

4) What about large chain stores replacing entrepreneurs, business owners who frequently own homes in the community?