Essay from Steve Hawley on 'big box stores' and small community-based businesses
Some time ago, during one of our discussions on The Batavian about big box stores, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to get Assemblyman Steven Hawley's take on the issue. Hawley is somebody with deep roots in the community, a small business owner and as a legislator he is in a position to deal with issues that impact small business owners.
Steve was gracious enough to write a response to my question about his position on these issues. Below is his response.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia): What the state legislature and local community can do to support New York’s small businesses.
In our free market economy, practiced in the United States, consumer demand is the driving force behind the success or failure of all businesses. Products and services are produced on an as-needed basis, with increased sales or transactions or product made and another job created. In truth, the way you spend your dollar has a ripple effect that can reach across your community, the state of New York, the country and sometimes across the globe. That’s the beauty of the free market – the power is in your hands.
Armed with the knowledge that the market conforms to your decisions, the question becomes how you want to spend your hard-earned money. In communities across our great state, consumers are faced with the same decision each and every day; should I take my dollar to a locally owned business or to the nearest “Big Box” location?
Surely, I recognize the minor advantages presented by global conglomerates offering generic products in bulk at deflated prices, but the consequences of abandoning your neighborhood shop in favor of a multi-national corporation go far beyond the bill at the bottom of your receipt.
For example, the money made by a business is used for, among other things, creating and maintaining positions of employment. Companies like Home Depot are world-renowned for hiring almost exclusively on a part-time basis so that they can avoid paying benefits afforded to full-time employees, such as health insurance and paid vacation.
So when you buy your groceries at a “Big Box” store, you are perpetuating their cycle of under-employment and inadequate compensation for their workers, who are also your neighbors. When you buy locally made products at your neighborhood store, your dollar is providing full-time, gainful employment for the members of your community.
The industry that may rely the most heavily on the loyalty of the local consumer is agriculture. No other profession requires the amount of dedication and hard work displayed by Western New York’s farmers.
This is why it is so vital for consumers to partake in local farmers’ markets that display the best agricultural products in the community in one convenient location. I have introduced legislation A11270 that would encourage businesses -- large and small -- to sell NY grown (goods), and produce an income-tax credit based on receipts scale. We all need to take pride in our citizens and businesses ingenuity and incredible capacity to produce high quality products.
Buying locally from small businesses provides jobs that offer adequate compensation for their employees, which feeds back into the economy on even deeper levels. If a worker has access to vacation days, they are able to travel with their family to state parks and other attractions, keeping revenue in the state that funds our schools, hospitals and community projects.
Travelers eat at local restaurants, which use their profits to employ residents of their communities, who in turn can contribute to the state’s economy in the same fashion. In a free and open market, every dollar spent embarks on a cyclical path, and the results are felt on a bafflingly large scale.
This is why it is so important that consumers pass up the allures of “Big Box” stores and stay committed to the products and services being provided by the members of their own communities; every dollar you spend has a ripple effect that will eventually circulate and positively affect you.
As an independent businessperson, I know firsthand the impact of nationwide “Big Box” companies who attempt to impact my own bottom line. I employ eight people in my business, whose jobs are jeopardized by these “Big Box” insurance companies that employ the bare minimum of local residents, if at all. All businesses like mine face a heightened, adversarial impact from national companies located outside NY. The impact requires us all to utilize differing methods of business acumen.
If the power is in the hands of the consumer, this begs the question: what role does the state legislature play in the realm of business? The main responsibility of the state legislature in this area is to create and foster opportunities.
There are multiple approaches to achieving this end and, for New York, the most pressing is creating a more welcoming business environment. Surveys consistently rank New York near the bottom for being business-friendly. As reported by the National Federation of Independent Business, 79 out of 150 (53 percent) New York State Assembly members voted against business interests a staggering 80 percent of the time.
This poor ranking is attributable to stringent regulations and oppressive taxes, which put an undue burden on businesses both large and small. The state legislature plays a key role in setting these unfortunate policies. To truly help strengthen small business and heightened employment, the state legislature must cut taxes, drastically reduce oppressive mandates and put an end to out-of-control state spending.
I have personally sponsored legislation to work with businesses instead of against them, such as my bill to extend the agricultural property tax credit to qualifying farmers, legislation to repeal the $50 registration fee for businesses to collect sales tax and legislation to repeal the 2 percent utility tax.
These actions create a more permissive environment, in which all businesses will have an environment more conducive for success. These changes would particularly help small businesses, as taxes create extra cost that they do not have the capacity to absorb, forcing them either to close their doors or relocate. With the shackles of regulations and taxes relieved, small businesses will be given an opportunity to compete, thrive and innovate in the free market.
The spread of the globalized economy has ushered Big Box stores into communities across the state, threatening the small businesses that are the backbone of our local economies. This shift in the structure of the marketplace must be answered by legislation that supports our small businesses so that they are still able to compete and offer products to consumers. In a free market, consumers have the power to make the choice of supporting local businesses -- our own neighbors.