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Keeping It Close To Home

Small businesses are the backbone of every community in America – not just economically but “spiritually.” That’s never been truer than during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that is approaching on a year of uncertainty and anxiety.

It’s also one of the reasons why city officials initiated the “Shop Mesquite” program to help promote local businesses that play a sizable role in the community by creating jobs, providing goods and services and helping foot the bill through sales tax revenue that makes up about 25 percent of the City’s annual general fund.

Mayor Bruce Archer elaborated on the importance of shopping local.

“For any city to strive and have a strong quality of life, it is imperative that our local economy is constantly growing when it comes to both retaining long-term small businesses and starting new ones,” Archer said. “Many of our small businesses don’t just provide needed tax revenue for city services and jobs, they are often many of the citizens who give back to our community in terms of benevolence and other community financial and volunteer needs.”

City Manager Cliff Keheley echoed Archer’s thoughts on the importance of local businesses to the City’s pocketbooks and its overall identity.

“Mesquite was founded by small business people and for the most part, it is small business people who continue to shape the community,” Keheley said. “When it comes to revenue, we need sales tax to pay for services so we don’t have to lean on residents through property taxes. The cost of providing these services – [such as police and fire protection, street repair and other general city government operations] – will only continue to increase. We need sales tax growth to ensure a well-balanced economy.”

Keheley added that overall, retail shopping – from both big chain stores and local mom-and-pop operations – makes up about 35 percent of Mesquite’s total sales tax revenue.

“Quality retail needs variety,” he said. “That includes big box stores and small boutique shops. Shoppers continue to like options that small businesses can provide.”

Keheley said when it was initiated that the “Shop Mesquite” campaign would be a long-term commitment to promoting local stores and restaurants with the City using a variety of resources, communications and partnerships to promote the campaign.

Make It Mesquite is doing its part to assist in the campaign as a private, locally-owned and managed small business by providing other local small businesses the opportunity to connect with potential customers in the community – mainly through the website’s Business Directory. Basic listings are free and two levels of enhanced listings are also available.

Besides the economic impact of local businesses, Archer expressed the importance of those businesses making and maintaining a connection with the people of the Mesquite community.

“It’s tremendously important,” he said. “While we may need many of the goods and services large corporate businesses provide, such interactions are often very impersonal and there is minimal human connection. During this pandemic we’ve been enduring, we can see how important the social connection between citizens really is and how small businesses often offer such opportunities for quality social interaction.”

Archer cites examples of how local businesses often reach out into the community around them, even bringing their business expertise to the table when it comes to local government.

“It’s often small businesses who are sponsors for peewee sports teams, provide needed funds and goods for small nonprofit charities and other community needs,” he said. “Historically in the life of Mesquite, many of our former school board trustees and city council members have been local business owners. Small business owners can often contribute greatly to the civic life of American communities.”

Keheley pointed to the sometimes forgotten value to customers of shopping local.

“It is vital for small businesses to make connections with residents,” he said. “The convenience of online shopping or finding products at a big box store are challenges but small businesses continue to thrive when they provide higher levels of customer service than you can get at larger retailers and online.”

Keheley also acknowledged the work underway to help revive Mesquite’s historic downtown area as an example of public-private partnership to help better the city.

“Our Downtown revitalization project has been led by small business owners,” Keheley said. “These leaders not only run their business, they contribute a significant amount of time volunteering to improve downtown and attract other businesses. Downtown revitalization wouldn’t be possible with out those dedicated volunteers who know the area, know their business and know their customers.”

Information on the City of Mesquite’s efforts to assist local businesses is available online and to find out more about Make It Mesquite’s “Support Local” campaign, email [email protected].