Do Businesses help Build Community?

Submitted by Tamarack on March 11, 2013 - 9:49am

Does business help or hurt a community?

If you were to ask me that question a year or two ago, I would have emphatically argued that business hurts community, and I would pull out case study after case study to prove my point.  Most people who are involved in community activism can list examples in their own communities when businesses have actively undermined what is in the best interest of the local people.  After all, businesses are profit-making machines.

As my own views have developed, I started to separate small-scale local business from the large corporate juggernaut.  My position was: local business was healthy for a community and that the real problem was the corporation.  I made this distinction because I could put a face to the local business; they were from my own community.  Corporations on the other hand were faceless and from far away.


Today, I still have many issues with the corporate structure, and I will fight passionately against the injustice that they create in their drive for profit and growth. 

I now however, see them in a new light.  A business, whether a corporate juggernaut or a small mom and pop store, is ultimately made up of people.  These people have values like you and I, they want to have a safe and vibrant community within which to raise themselves and their families.  This is true whether you are the CEO of a multibillion-dollar company or the local coffee shop.  I think this reminds us of the human side of business.

When we attacked businesses, we often attack the people who are attached to them.  We create an "us vs. them" mentality.  Instinctively this causes the people we are attacking to become defensive.  We become enemies finding with each other.  In the process, the real issues and the open dialogue needed to overcome them is lost.

I think if we want to build strong communities we need to take the time to get to know our local businesses, understand who they are, what their values are and most importantly the people within the business who make them tick.  My great community initiatives are started and funded by the businesses and business leaders within our community.

My position now is that business can help and can hurt a community, ultimately though businesses need community and communities need business, so we got to find a way to work together and help each other out.

So my challenge for you is get to know your local businesses.  When you are putting on an event, invite them, help them become part of our community and they in turn will help us.  The simple reality is we are all in this together, so let’s work together for the better good of all.