Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

Aesop once said, “We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction”.  Unknown to many, there is a silent struggle being waged in nearly every small and medium local community across this great land.  It is a struggle many Americans don’t even realize is being waged.  It is a struggle that will forever change the rural landscape of America.  Make no mistake; this is a life and death struggle with dire consequences for our local communities.

The struggle is our Main Streets being locked in competition with Wall Street. It is a struggle over how you spend your dollars. It is a struggle, if lost, will leave your local community desolate.  If communities lose this struggle, and many are, they are left with an increased cycle of poverty, low wages, and drug addiction.  Additionally, there is further deterioration of their roads, less safety due to fewer police and fire resources and crumbling infrastructures.  Local media outlets are slowly strangled as their local ad base evaporates leaving communities with less reliable media outlets to rely on. The community will be left solely dependent upon big boxes, chains, and online options controlled by their Wall Street owners.

In the art of war, commanders understand the necessity of knowing your enemy or in this case, your competition.  Knowing your competition and the methods being used against your community is not complex. In some cases, they start coming into your community in slow and subtle ways.  In others, they come being courted and offered monetary incentives by local governments unaware they are dancing with the devil if change is not balanced properly.

But come they do. The Trojan horse enters communities flooding them with National chains, big boxes, along with Dollar Stores on nearly every corner. Couple this with the rise of e-commerce, and it is only a matter of time before the economic landscape changes. Local businesses are trapped by these trends being waged and can’t compete due to the scale that the big boxes and chains bring to bear. They are swallowed up, forced to eventually wave a white flag, and close their doors.  To the victor go the spoils.

If it ended there, some would survive. Many claim the lower prices and increased choices are worth it. But don’t be fooled, once local choices are removed, prices will slowly climb as well. Meanwhile, communities have lost their local business base. Their local sales tax base is being eroded as the dollars spent with these competitors are worth far less than those dollars spent with local businesses.  Make no mistake, once the tipping point is reached, the uniqueness the community has known will then have undergone a slow and very drastic demise.

Now local communities must rely on the victors of this struggle. They are forced to not only shop there, but now they are also employed by them, occupying low paying jobs with few benefits. Studies show that the more big boxes, chains, and out-of-town businesses dotting the landscape of your community, the more poverty and crime will increase as resources are stretched too thin. Local governments are forced to layoff, operating with less each passing year.

In most cases, the frontline participants on both sides of the struggle are simply pawns in a giant chess match being orchestrated by the executives behind the scenes.  Those local managers and employees working for the big boxes and chains usually reside, shop, are friends of, and live next door to those living in the community under siege.  This blurs the lines further, but make no mistake, the stakes are as high as any your community has ever faced.

How does a community fight the current onslaught to their local way of life?  While not simple, it is very straightforward.  First, understand it is all about where and how you spend your dollars. Secondly, stop courting the Trojan horse and invest in your local business talent, both young and old. Thirdly, keep every possible government dollar local.  Fourth, start educating the community that this struggle impacts us today as well as future generations.  Fifth, invest in your local downtown and return that heart and soul to your community where it belongs.  Lastly, find that uniqueness that sets you apart from other communities and build upon that foundation that can’t be duplicated by the far-off competitors bent upon forcing you to play by their rules.  Your community’s future is indeed, in your hands.

John Newby is a nationally recognized Publisher, Community, Chamber, Business & Media strategic consultant & speaker. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column runs 60+ communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community leaders, businesses and local media to build synergies creating more vibrant communities. He can be reached at:

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