Op-Eds

Nov. 28th, 2015

Originally published here in the Wisconsin State Journal, Nov. 28, 2015.

This time of year I am fortunate to live near a variety of family-owned businesses where I can purchase holiday treats for family and friends who have a sweet tooth like me. Among my longtime favorites in Oshkosh are Oaks and Hughes chocolates, as well as Caramel Crisp on Main.

But there’s another reason at Thanksgiving to think about small businesses, whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or not: Small Business Saturday.

Our country faces serious challenges, and the No. 1 solution that helps address all of them is economic growth. That solution relies on renewed faith, strength in families, strong communities, and work — and small businesses provide those ingredients. Supporting them this Saturday, rather than skipping from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, is a good way to make a difference this year.

You know these businesses, and it’s my hope that more of us than ever will continue to be faithful to them. They’re the one-of-a-kind spots on State Street in Madison, the quaint shops all over the North Woods, and the well-known storefronts on Main Street in your hometown. Shopping at small businesses means supporting local business people — the folks who spend their money in your community and who contribute to local causes. It also means supporting the people who fire up an important but undervalued jobs engine.

About one in five jobs in Wisconsin were created by a new business 5 years old or less, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses made up nearly 98 percent of all employers in Wisconsin.

I’ve had the opportunity to see many small businesses up close as I’ve traveled across our state — places like Rural Route 1 Popcorn in Montfort, Towne House Restaurant in Darlington, Door County Coffee and Ice Cream Shop near Carlsville, Fish Creek’s Not Licked and the famous Wilson’s Ice Cream in Ephraim.

Small Business Saturday is a reminder of the many industries that are fueled by small businesses. During Manufacturing Month in October, for example, I had the opportunity to tour 10 different manufacturing facilities. They varied in size, but they all had to start small. My experience starting a plastics manufacturing company in 1979 confirms to me the truth of what Vince Lombardi once said: “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

People who aspire to build things, create products and provide services we all value know the hard work involved in building a business that creates the well-paid jobs that everyone desires.

Ultimately, we need to make it easier to start a business and grow those that already exist. I’m focused on getting Washington out of the way so the Wisconsinites on Main Street can put more people to work.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll consider Small Business Saturday an opportunity to spread a little holiday cheer, support folks in your community, and add fuel to an important economic engine. Every little bit helps, whether it’s at a jewelry store, a sporting goods retailer — or a favorite chocolate shop.

With the holiday season upon us, please remember to support your local small businesses.

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