The Small-Mart Revolution Talking Points – Michael Shuman

  • The Small-Mart Revolution represents a major new trend that thus far has largely escaped public notice. Local businesses in the United States suffered setbacks during the era of globalization but still make up more than half the economy—and they are now on the verge of a huge comeback.
  • More than a half dozen trends are increasing the competitiveness of small business. The rising price of oil, for example, makes local production and distribution more competitive against Wal-Mart production in China. Local businesses are enjoying advantages in mastering local markets, delivering the best services, and bypassing inefficient global distribution systems. The imminent decline of the U.S. dollar also will benefit local business.
  • This is good news for communities that have been told by their economic development departments that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to attracting or retaining global businesses by paying millions in incentives and reducing labor and environmental standards – policies which studies and experience are showing to be dead-ends.
  • A growing body of evidence shows that local businesses are the best promoters of good jobs, high environmental standards, economic stability, smart growth, the “creative economy,” social equality, and political participation.
  • Local businesses actually have improved their competitiveness in recent years, but these improvements haven’t registered yet, because public policy has foolishly favored of global business. Global businesses get more than $113 billion in subsidies each year, while local businesses get almost nothing. And a variety of other laws – such as banking, trade, tax, securities, and antitrust – increasingly disfavor local business.
  • These policy biases mean that for the Small-Mart Revolution to take hold, waiting for the “invisible hand” of the free market is not enough. Instead, concerted actions by consumers, investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and organizers are necessary.
  • Consumers should buy local wherever possible. By shopping smart, they can localize most of their expenditures at no increased cost and even realize significant savings. Replacing the use of nonlocal oil with local energy efficiency measures can save a U.S. household several thousand dollars per year. Around the country are directories, labels, campaigns, and local money systems that help consumers to buy local effectively.
  • Even though most of the competitive economy is made of local small business, it receives very little equity investment. Even Americans who are committed to buying local have no way to localize their pension funds. One reason is that securities laws have effectively kept small businesspeople separated from small investors. A new generation of securities laws are needed that promote local stock markets, local hedge and venture funds, and local mutual funds.
  • Local businesspeople are pioneering a number of strategies to beat global competitors. They are tapping consumers’ growing interest in local goods and services. They are working together through small-business associations, small-business emporiums, producer cooperatives, and flexible manufacturing networks. They are launching successful local businesses that promote local purchasing, local investing, and local entrepreneurship.
  • Public policymakers are beginning to realize that smart reforms of their economic development can save millions by ending incentives, bribes, and payoffs to nonlocal business. Some of that money can wisely be spent instead to support municipal programs to buy, invest, hire, or train local. Also urgent is to press national policymakers to remove the vast number of imbalances facing local business.
  • Around the country communities are organizing residents to develop comprehensive strategies for localization. Local First campaigns can be found in three-dozen cities, from Bellingham (WA) to Philadelphia (PA). In upstate New York and Maine, organizers put together hundreds of community members to envision a local economic future, to assess unnecessary imports and dollar “leakages,” and to create new local businesses that could replace those imports and plug the leaks.
  • The Small-Mart Revolution is not just for the United States – it’s actually happening throughout the world. It has a new vision of globalization—to protect the local, globally. Communities are giving away technology, policy ideas, and technical assistance to increase the self-reliance of their partner communities. Global networks of communities are forming to promote fair trade, corporate responsibility, global small-business networks, global funds of local funds, and global exchanges for local currencies and barter.
  • The Small-Mart Revolution offers communities worldwide a fundamentally new approach to reducing poverty, solving global environmental problems, preventing conflicts, and reducing uncontrolled immigration.
  • The politics of the Small-Mart Revolution are inherently multi-partisan. Conservatives like the focus on small business, free markets, and local government, while progressives like the emphasis on community empowerment.


If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.

Scroll to Top