Last week was National Small Business Week (May 12-16), a celebration of small businesses that was first recognized by the president of the United States in 1963, recognizing entrepreneurs and small business owners for their contribution to their communities. National Small Business Week is a chance for awards to be given, special hashtags to be used — #SBW2014 #smallbusinessweek — and for a community to come together to officially celebrate the impact small businesses have on our local economy and job market. 

National Small Business Week may go unrecognized by many. Let’s face it, there’s a week or a day that is nationally recognized for lots of causes, communities and networks. For many of us, if it isn’t printed in our planner, on our Google calendar, highlighted in our Facebook feed, or sent out in a memo at work - in other words, affecting us directly - we may not know that this is the time where we salute such and such, or this and this. National and federally recognized holidays and long-standing observances aside, the marketing behind well-known days of honor like Mother’s and Father’s is certainly aided by the other secret weapon of campaigning - commonality. Generally speaking, we all have a mother and father. We’re all on the same page; whether or not our priority is to celebrate, we generally know and remember these days of national recognition. 

But in a community such as Warren County where we not only pride ourselves on sole proprietorships, and small businesses and entrepreneurs make up a great percentage of our business community, there is a commonality we share here, despite our backgrounds and personal beliefs - our small business community. As citizens of Warren County, especially those who also work here, it’s important to acknowledge that the health of our small business community affects the health of greater Warren County. 

Professors out of Louisiana State University’s Department of Sociology published a paper in 2011 in which Professors Blanchard, Tolbert and Mencken assess the health of a county’s small business community on the population health of a county. 

Their conclusions find that: “counties with a vibrant small-business sector have lower rates of mortality and a lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes. Small-business owners produce important noneconomic rewards for communities, such as enhanced stocks of social capital and collective efficacy...  [The professors] posit an alternative theoretical approach that explains how small-business development improves population health by enhancing the entrepreneurial culture of the community... which provides a local orientation that allows for greater levels of interaction and trust among community members” (p. 10-11).

The professors also show through their analysis that “investment in locally grown enterprise has the potential to yield large returns for communities... [including] self-determinism and proactivity by local residents to manage local affairs and address problems” (p. 11).

Whether or not we shop local 100 percent, 50 percent, or 0 percent of the time, I encourage you to think about and recognize the impact our small business community has, not just on our personal pocketbooks or personal mottos, but on our community health. 

And even though National Small Business Week has passed as of this publication, I want to give a special thank you to all small business owners, employees and entrepreneurs for your contribution to our local economy and local flavor. 

Chamber Connections is a monthly column by The Chamber of Commerce of Warren County.