If you haven't figured it out, I enjoy quotes by great people. This week, I again use a quote by Albert Einstein, he said "The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." Simply put, we need to alter our traditional thinking to enact and facilitate change within our community. After a year like 2020, which impacted so many small businesses and communities, it is important that we remind ourselves of the true value small business brings to our community. Analyst Nick Rokke, of the Palm Beach Daily, recently indicated some great small business facts. Small businesses make up 99.7% of U.S. firms. They employ 49% of all Americans and create 64% of all new jobs. Let those figures sink in! Prior to COVID striking our communities and country, the fact that the business environment was generally robust in many communities throughout the country should come as no surprise. COVID changed that dynamic overnight. Even communities that have incorporated many of the proven tactics such as micro-TIF's, favorable tax rates, fewer regulations, city commitment, and other initiatives to assist small businesses, struggled to survive. As Rokke also points out, with fewer regulations, businesses can more accurately predict the future allowing them to take on more employees or even expand. With competitive tax rates allowing businesses to keep more of their profits, you have the ingredients of a strong small-medium business inducing environment. Micro-TIFs provide targeted funds for targeted areas of your community. City commitment instills confidence and support. Why do I bring up the above information? Now is the time for every community in America to shine their light inward and determine if their community is doing everything possible to support and build their future through their small business base. Is your community taking this time to double down on their efforts to assure small business growth? If not, now is the time to spring into action and create the atmosphere of innovation, change, entrepreneurship, collaboration and synergies. There can be many reasons why this may not be occurring in your community. It may be regional headwinds not seen in other portions of the country, such as being tied to oil prices. It may be local and state taxes coupled with regulation, such as we see in states like Illinois, New Jersey or California that stifle growth. It might be a soft labor market where open positions may be hard to fill. The list of economic reasons is practically endless. In spite of the reasons above and many others that we can add to the list, each community must take their future in their own hands. Be the future you wish to see. If taxes are too high, offer tax incentives. If regulations are stifling, reduce regulations making start-ups easy and painless. If you haven't taken advantage of micro-TIFs, look into it and see if that fits your community. You might be surprised (we will have a column in the near future on micro-TIFs). If you have a tight labor market, provide tax incentives for hiring locals in lieu of out-of-town employees. For every issue, there tends to be an excuse. Don't dwell on excuses, look for solutions to overcome your issues through creativity, innovative and be willing to invest in local people. Many communities invest major dollars in courting national businesses, not that this is all bad. Evaluate the long-term impact of those dollars on your community. In most cases, the long-term impact is much worse than we can imagine or realize. Not to mention, when times get tough, national chains know no loyalty and will leave. Most importantly, while investing in small business, simultaneously, invest in your current downtown and the surrounding area. National statistics indicate those dollars bring the highest return to your community. When downtowns are left to deteriorate, you can plan on other parts of the community soon following. You won't see it overnight; it will be like a cancer or degenerative process that slowly infects the body until it is too weak to battle back. I have yet to see a rebuilt and vibrant downtown that hasn't positively impacted the entire community. Our downtowns are treasures, the links between the past, present and future. They are what drives small business growth throughout the entire community. They are what connects the young, middle age and the mature. They are the future for those communities seeking answers to a better tomorrow. John A. Newby, author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street" column dedicated to assisting communities and local media companies combine synergies that allow them to not just survive, but thrive in a world where truly-local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.