Local, national efforts aim to aid small businesses

The public is encouraged to participate in Shop Small Saturday. Federal legislation to level the playing field between small businesses and Internet retailers is also afoot. Both efforts are worthy of support.

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Good things come in small packages – and from small businesses.

The latest expansion of Sauk Valley Shop Small’s public awareness campaign is designed to encourage more people to shop in locally owned businesses in Dixon, Rock Falls and Sterling.

Saturday has been designated as Shop Small Saturday for about 30 participating merchants. Those independent small businesses will have specials that day. Some will feature artists and musicians, which are pillars of the “cultural shopping” approach that enriches lives while helping small merchants stand apart from big-box retailers.

Sauk Valley Shop Small plans two more non-holiday Shop Small Saturdays on May 4 and Aug. 3. Then, on Nov. 30, the group will have its third Small Business Saturday, as a more relaxed alternative to the hustle and bustle of Black Friday shopping at the big stores.

Actually, this year’s three non-holiday Shop Small events are timed quite nicely for Valentine’s Day shoppers, Mother’s Day shoppers, and back-to-school shoppers.

Such events will be a success if they can get people to return to the community’s ancestral business home – downtown – and rediscover its wonders.

Washington, D.C., is far distant from the Sauk Valley, but that’s where another effort to help small businesses is under way.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., continues to push his Marketplace Fairness Act in the halls of Congress.

The Marketplace Fairness Act, formerly known as the Main Street Fairness Act, would benefit bricks-and-mortar downtown businesses in their competitive struggle against online merchants. Local stores must collect sales taxes from their customers, but online competitors face no such requirement.

Therefore, online retailers have a competitive advantage in that their total prices will be at least 6.75 percent lower than those in the Twin Cities and Dixon.

People who live in Illinois and buy merchandise online are supposed to keep track of purchases and pay sales tax on them each year when filing state income tax returns. Few people do that.

Durbin’s legislation would give states the option to require that Internet retailers collect state and local sales taxes based on where the buyer lives. Those taxes would help local and state governments, and they would level the playing field for local businesses.

By the way, small online retailers would be exempt until they exceed $500,000 in out-of-state sales a year.

Last year, Durbin supported the Marketplace Fairness Act during testimony he gave before the Senate Commerce Committee. In December, he met with several Illinois legislators to further promote the bill, which he said has 21 bipartisan co-sponsors and is endorsed by 23 governors.

Through local efforts such as Shop Small Saturday and national efforts such as the Marketplace Fairness Act, small businesses stand to benefit. Their communities do, too.

 

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