“To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.”
— Adam Smith, “The Wealth of Nations”
When the vote totals began rolling into our smoke-filled newsroom that dark, cold November night in 1972, the early evening’s ha-ha of camaraderie dissipated and we very young reporters sprang into action. We dialed numbers on black rotary phones and scribbled on stiff notepads while attempting to make sense of voters’ hopes and desires. Then, hunching over our ancient clunking typewriters we feverishly punched out words, sentences and paragraphs. The press foreman’s deadline, approaching like a speeding metroliner, flashed red in our collective consciousness.
That election 42 years ago (my first as a working journalist) gave Richard Nixon a second term as president. In some respects the vote of Nov. 8, 2016, seems as significant. You do remember Nov. 8, 2016 – the date now resounding with the strongest repudiation of the direction our nation’s leaders have been leading us than most of us can ever recall?
Many of the acquaintances and business owners that I know in the green industry welcome change. They didn’t want “more of the same” and an administration guided by an individual they viewed more as a community organizer than a national leader. They, along with the majority of voters, said “yes” to a candidate that acknowledged their frustration and, at some level anyway, they recognized as a fellow businessperson.
While change can be both welcome and unwelcome, with change comes opportunity to affect change. How effectively U.S. small business (the green industry being a valuable segment of it) can bend change beneficially to its interests depends on how aggressively and smartly it seizes the opportunity. Never in recent memory has it been more important for small business interests to begin formulating plans to favorably gain the attention of the new administration and lawmakers.
While our government praises small business as being the backbone of the U.S. economy, perversely the government and some of its alphabet soup agencies have seemed to work at odds to these pronouncements.
On the national level, the biggest concerns of owners of small businesses are: the availability and quality of labor, the cost of regulations and red tape, the burden of taxes and the complexity of tax laws and uncertainty about the direction of the economy.
Other issues affecting green industry business owners align with agriculture, such as its concern about the continued availability of inputs such as water and chemicals to produce and manage live plants.
How important is small business to the U.S. economy? The numbers may surprise you as they did me.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) itself tells us that small businesses make up more than 99.7 percent of all employers, create more than 50 percent of non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 50 percent of all private sector workers.
Our highly fragmented green industry, comprised almost exclusively of small businesses, is a large contributor to these numbers. The landscape services category — just a single cog in the bigger green industry — represents almost a half million companies, employs almost a million people and generates more than $78 billion annually, according to July 2016 IBIS World Market report.
Given the importance of small business to the vibrancy of our communities and to the economy itself, owners of these businesses seek a reversal of so many poorly thought-out seemingly capricious legislative and regulatory roadblocks.
While many owners made their statement by the choices they made at the ballot box, none of this will come easy. The choice they made was merely the first step, one made upon promises and pronouncements. Take nothing for granted.
There is no end game in politics, which is an ongoing, ever-changing process filled with surprises, as the resignation of a disgraced Nixon just two years after his landslide victory in 1972 reminds us.