Your local chamber of commerce or city council can’t run ads or marketing for you, but there are still many ways you could get them to give your business a boost. Your local government is actually one of the best small business resources available to you! Every year, your business pays taxes to all various levels of government. As you’re paying a significant chunk of your income to your local town or city, they should be providing something in return!
There are many things you may not realize you’re entitled to, that fall under the responsibility of your local government to fix. The In order to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, here are ten things that you can hold your local government responsible to help you out with:
This one may seem minor but potholes and poor infrastructure in general have a huge impact on all aspects of small business. If driving to your business is going to cause people to feel like their axles are going to break, they’re going to either consciously or subconsciously resist traveling to your store. Potholes also affect the shipping of goods. Businesses are going “mobile” in more ways than just digital– between shipping via Amazon, operating mobile stores (think food trucks), or receiving goods from warehouses, small business relies on cheap and efficient shipping. Guess what will drive shipping costs through the roof– trucks damaged and delayed by potholes! Local roads are absolutely your local governments responsibility. If things aren’t up to snuff, let them hear it!
I think we’ve all been here before– nothing dampers your enthusiasm to visit a business more than being unable to find parking, or having to pay through the roof to get a spot. Not all small businesses can be blessed with a parking lot in back, and in crowded downtown areas, metered or garage parking can reduce the number of people willing to walk in to a store, or how long they linger in town after a meal. Local government should be doing all they can to help out your small business– when you succeed, they succeed. If parking is a problem around you, visit your local representative and let them know. They should be able to give you business access to a nearby lot, or at least work with you to increase the availability nearby your store. Many local governments have recently agreed to “turn off” metered parking after 7:00 pm, to encourage the dinner crowd to linger after paying their meal.
3. Bad lighting:
Now that the winter months are approaching, more of your business’ operating hours will be during darkness. If you’re located on a dark and gloomy street, this can subtly discourage people from passing by your store front. Keeping public areas well-lit has long been a common tactic that cities and towns take in crime reduction, so it’s far from unreasonable to urge your local government to do the same. Even if you don’t live in a crime-ridden area, fear of darkness is an innate human tendency. Potential customers might not even realize why they’re avoiding walking down your street, and lighting their way can subtly change their minds! Without any cost to your business, and improvement in street lighting usually leads to significantly more sales. See what we mean? Your local government is one of the best small business resources available!
There’s nothing that screams “get out of here!” to pedestrians more than a dirty, trash-strewn street. In the windy winter months, trash can get blown far from its original location and become your problem. Not only should there be a public trash basket on every corner, but trash bags shouldn’t be sitting around very long waiting to get picked up (the longer they wait around, the more likely they are to tear open, spewing garbage all over the place). This is also a place to keep a carefully eye on neighboring businesses. Familiarize yourself with your city’s rules and regulations about waste disposal and make sure your neighbors are following them. Anonymously reporting misconduct in this area isn’t snitching, it’s a boon to your fellow citizens.
5. Abandoned buildings:
Sometimes it’s hard for a city to control how many buildings are unoccupied in the neighborhood– if businesses or residents aren’t moving in, they aren’t moving in. But it is the city’s responsibility to make sure abandoned buildings aren’t safety hazards — either from housing “unofficial” occupants, fire hazards or literally falling apart. Obviously abandoned buildings also bring down surrounding property values will can negatively impact your storefront and business (in addition to giving off a bad vibe to shoppers!). Your local Buildings Department, Chamber of Commerce, or even the Department of Public Works can help by securing the building or at the very least painting over the abandoned building. We recommend bring to the city’s attention one of our Funding Gates users, SecureView, in your letters. They specialize in creating an attractive but durable alternative to boarding up windows and doors with plywood. SecureView installs super strong, clear recycled polycarbonate resin windows that are designed to look like normal glass windows. Having these in place instead of boards will help maintain surrounding property values and improve the overall neighborhood aesthetic.
6. New businesses:
Pay attention to your local department of commerce. By keeping an eye on what businesses may be incoming to the town, you can get a jump on voicing your opinion when it really matters. Everyone knows main street really suffers when mega-corporations open locations in small towns. Thankfully, many coalitions of small business owners have had success in blocking WalMarts and similar chains from destroying the character of their small towns. The closer you keep an eye on your department of commerce, the sooner you can take action if necessary. You are entitled to have a say in the types of businesses being added to your town.
7. Draw pedestrian traffic with events:
Even if your town isn’t typically a place bustling with weekday or weekend pedestrians, an organized street fair can work wonders in bringing you business. Most importantly, it can raise awareness and turn one-time street fair attendees into long-term, regular customers. Obviously winter may not be the best time for these kind of things, but get the ball rolling now by making an emphatic suggestion and reap the benefits when the warm weather arrives! The more businesses who ask for a street fair, the more likely it will become a reality sooner than later, so spread the word!
8. Improved Surroundings
If your location doesn’t get much pedestrian traffic, take a close look at the environment outside your store and consider common urban improvements. Pleasant greenery always helps increase traffic– planting some trees or bushes along your sidewalk can make for a very enjoyable stroll. Happy, leisurely shoppers are more likely to wander for longer periods of time, and more likely to spend money as they walk along. You should also take a general look at the “sidewalk system” in your area. If there’s no sidewalk by your storefront, that’s an obvious request to make. But even if there is, if your sidewalk isn’t connected to other thoroughfares, make a push for a connection! The best way to assess this is to walk around yourself, and see how easy it is to get to your store from common starting points like parking lots, train or bus stops, restaurants, or other popular stores.
It’s clear that businesses suffer in crime ridden areas, but it’s important to note that you can do more than just asking your local government to lower the crime rate. Police departments rely heavily on help from local businesses. This doesn’t mean you have to dash to the bat-cave and don your superhero costume after business close– just keep a wary eye out! Reporting any suspicious behavior or tendencies (consistent loitering, rowdy bars, etc) can help police address problems they may not have even been aware of. It will be most effective for you to regularly attend police community meetings, or organize a monthly police and local business community meeting, your local police department will know they’ll be accountable for making any requested changes by the next meeting!
10. Helpful Signs:
In order to increase local commerce, many cities and towns have begun to strategically place signs pointing to commercial districts. This can be very helpful, especially if you live in a small town (believe it or not, many people may not even know there’s a commercial district in your town!). It can also help towns that see a lot of through-traffic to other areas.
Remember, much like how you run your own business, if you are paying taxes to help your city run, they better be providing sufficient service and results to you! Let your voice be heard, improve your community, and watch your business grow!