By Britteny Dee
Lansing Star staff writer
In his first State of the State Address, Gov. Rick Snyder addressed the economy, the state’s budget, and education. He also mentioned the importance of helping local businesses succeed.
“We need to focus on being the best across the state and not dwelling on who claims credit,” Snyder said. “We need to put more emphasis on economic gardening as opposed to hunting. For those unfamiliar with economic gardening, it means we’ll focus first and foremost on building businesses that are already here in the state,”
Snyder is not the only one interested in promoting local businesses.
Capital Area Local First is a group Lansing group that acknowledges the importance of local businesses and focuses on educating the community. One initiative in place includes shopping at locally owned businesses and buying locally made products rather than shopping at chain or big-box stores.
Scott Harris owns Everybody Reads, 2019 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing. Everybody Reads is a charter member of Capital Area Local First.
Harris said local businesses add personality to communities and help the economy.
“The intent is to have a collection of local, small-business owners work together to try to keep unique businesses afloat and to try and keep the local economy strong,” Harris said.
A consistent message is important
Harris said he was pleased to hear Snyder mention the importance of local businesses in his speech but thinks more can be done to support local businesses in Lansing.
It’s important to “consistently get that message out,” Harris said. “It’s wonderful when you hear something like that sporadically, but to really drive that point home is important. I think that there should be more of a partnership between state and local governments and in small business alliances.”
One benefit that local business owners have over large-store owners is their ability to work together and help each other.
Our interaction “is really informal,” Harris said. “We’ll talk over a cup of coffee. We sit, we chat and we exchange ideas. Sometimes we just vent, which is very therapeutic. Sometimes, just through conversations and networking, we find ideas and projects and such.”
Workers at small, local businesses also have advantages over workers at large chain stores. A more personal, close-knit working environment is one advantage.
“I taught dance at a family owned dance studio in my hometown,” said pre-nursing sophomore Andrea Thelen. “I loved it. There were only a few employees and we all became really close. I felt like I was a part of the family. I feel like in other larger, chain-type stores things aren’t as personal.”
“I think working at a family owned business would be cool,” said sophomore Lindsay Westin.
Although being a local business owner can be advantageous, there are also some downsides.
It is critical to make people aware
“Mostly, it’s getting people to be aware that we exist and why we exist,” Harris said. “We’re not just a bookstore. We really do want to be a resource. We want to offer things that you might not be able to find in other places.”
Harris also has to compete with other more well known bookstores in the area.
“Barnes and Noble and Schuler’s and all these other bookstores around, there’s no way we could compete with them, so why even try,” Harris said. “So we tried to be real different. So I thought, I’ll put together a list of resources, a list of books for kids who are going through grief and working toward healing. Then it just started to evolve.”
Everybody Reads now offers book for children from foster families or adoptive families, multicultural families, gay or lesbian households and much more.
“We thought that every child, regardless of experience, should be able to come into the store and see something that tells their experience,” Harris said. “What our bookstore is designed to do is to work with underrepresented individuals and families and communities.”
For more information on Capital Area Local First, or to find more local businesses in Lansing, visit capitalarealocalfirst.com.