Locally-owned, independent businesses are the backbone of our local economy and the foundation of Austin’s unique culture. Austin is home to more than 75,000 local business owners who account for the bulk of the tax revenue that fuels our city. Our sheer numbers dictate our economic impact. Independent businesses employ the people, pay the taxes and create most of the growth that keeps Austin’s economy healthy. According to the Census Bureau, Austin small businesses with fewer than 20 employees accounted for 81% of total growth in all businesses.
While these businesses contribute most of Austin’s tax revenue, an even greater impact exists in the recirculation of dollars spent at locally-owned businesses. A landmark study conducted by Civic Economics (a locally-owned business) found that more than three times the dollars stay in our community from money spent at a locally-owned business rather than a chain store. Specifically, spending $100 at a locally-owned store puts $45 recirculating in our local economy whereas only $13 of $100 spent at a chain store stays in Austin’s local economy. These facts have now been confirmed through studies in large and small communities all across the nation.
But local business is more than an economic powerhouse. It is the manifestation of our drive to create. It is the direct response of neighbors to the needs of other neighbors. It is the storefront of our hopes and dreams as individuals and as a community. Entrepreneurs embrace their talents with a passion that feeds both their endeavors and our culture. From the unique shops to the musicians (independent businesses one and all) to the entrepreneurial spirit that exudes the attitude that anything can be done—local business makes it happen every day.
Locally-owned businesses nourish the heart and soul of any community. They are, in fact, what gives a community its unique character and identity. It is perhaps this reflection that gives Austin its vast and varied local business pool. While many swim in Barton Springs, many more dip into the pool of independent businesses on a daily basis. This is what brings tourists and newcomers year after year. It is what proud Austinites value—that uniqueness that stakes a claim and says we are unlike anywhere else.
When considering Austin’s rich history and community assets, invariably the names of unique, locally-owned businesses, present and departed, roll off the tongues of engaged citizens. The Armadillo, Threadgills, Whole Foods, BookPeople, Waterloo Records, Amy’s Ice Creams, Alamo Drafthouse and many others have helped define who we are as a community and as a culture. In many ways and many places, our citizens have shown how they value local business. In the creation of the vision statement portion of Imagine Austin, valuing local business and entrepreneurs was one of the highest-scored options.