Dear Mr. Duggins: “The solutions to many of our most entrenched problems are likely to come from the bottom up not the top down.”


First, the details.

I’ve emphasized one aspect of this program to “champion” independent, locally-owned businesses.

  • access to capital
  • a level playing field i.e. governments should stop favoring big corporations through subsidies, infrastructure and awarding contracts
  • laws against monopolies enforced
  • laws that allow cooperative ownership of real estate and community investments. While somewhat off topic, she also suggested the effects of gentrification also could be mitigated by community land trusts which, if formed early enough, could buy up properties to control the rise in rents
  • easing business licensing, permitting and zoning, which are nearly impossible in Chicago due to the strong effect of political influence

Next time you run into David Duggins holding court at Quills, often in the act of entertaining an out-of-towner with promises of boilerplate tax abatements and subsidies, remind him of the virtues of locally-owned businesses, and enjoy the economic development director’s nervous laugh. That’s because what’s “cool” for Duggins isn’t necessarily best for the community.

Community Allies: the virtue of locally-owned businesses, by Bruce Nesmith (Holy Mountain)

As Cedar Rapids prepares to welcome two more strip malls on the edge of town, and one of our malls announces a new franchise tenant, it’s instructive and inspiring to hear evidence that the most potent tax-gathering areas in towns of any size are downtowns and Main Streets, and that locally-owned businesses contribute far above their weight when it comes to developing strong communities. Those messages were crisply presented by Ellen Shepard in a talk Friday at Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research and Learning. Ms. Shepard is the founder and CEO of Community Allies, which works with communities to develop organizations and leadership, facilitate community engagement, and “to grow stronger from within.” Prior to that she headed the chamber of commerce in Andersonville, a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago.