Big City Revitalization Stunts Small Business Growth


by Dean L. Jones, C.P.M.

There is an overt one-sided placement of large retailers in Los Angeles County. For example, Compton and Inglewood cities have exploded with big box stores, apparently taking an economic growth page from neighboring localities. Compton recently introduced their Gateway Plaza Shopping Center upholding Best Buy, Staples, Target, Home Depot, Ross, 24 Hour Fitness, Party City, AT&T, B of A and Wells Fargo Bank. The inclusion of what they set-aside for smaller sized businesses was allocated to major processed food franchises like McDonald’s, Panda Express, and TGIF.

Placing these big stores over that of rightful small business enterprises is badly timed since the job and service needs do not rest with those glamorous oversized retail outlets previously mentioned. Plus, large retailers have a proven track record of being more of a nuance than a community benefit, as they have a propensity to last just long enough to turn a sizable profit and shut down. [Sears was once a Compton destination place, but left the city high and dry roughly twenty-five years ago]. The main point is that when you lump only big stores all into one location and call it urban development it leaves a lot to be desired for building a complete community.

The long term vitality of a city rests with building and embracing more essential personal service firms like dry cleaners, launder mats, florists, produce vendors, auto repair concerns, independent diners, legal services, shoe repair centers, cultural bookstores, dentists, barber shops, beauty salons and the like. Cities that overlook such firms are disserving its citizenry from allowing well paid city planners to get away with straight-out ignoring the people’s needs and lifestyle requirements with oversized corporations.

Because, when you examine this state of affairs, excluding hardware outlets, these major mega-chain retailers represent shopping convenience to buy a bunch of nonessential items. Responsible socioeconomic development works when you attract and expand enterprises that meet the needs of the people. Too many of the populace in and around the greater L.A. area out number the positive jobs available. In spite of the fact that every elected official touts a common mantra that small business is society’s backbone and economic engine for new jobs. If so, then why plan to attract and build-to-suit for only large brand name corporations, all the while driving out more suitable business enterprises?

As urban dwellers we are strangling ourselves from an overexposed retail economy. Locally, in a decade or so we will undoubtedly experience another surge of urban blight just like Compton is working to overcome at two of its previous business districts on Compton Boulevard, between Willowbrook Avenue and Alameda Blvd, and Long Beach Blvd. just north of Rosecrans Avenue. The aforementioned Sears mega-store vacated Compton for the City of Carson, and many remember K-Mart shutting down some twelve years ago, where now that oversized building has yet to be filled with even a whisper. Upon there departure, the domino effect of blight was the result as each of these shopping locations and their adjacent buildings that were once occupied by Hollywood Video and Circuit City sit right in plain sight on Compton Blvd as baron as the surface of the Moon.

Inglewood is literally on a retail feeding frenzy drawing in every retail food chain in the country from Chili’s to Red Lobster. Although, Inglewood still has a good chance to turnaround and reconnect with its older portions of the city that have a number of personal service firms operating well on the far west side of town like L.A. Business Printing and on the vintage La Brea corridor going north from Centinela Avenue like Curtom Construction and Roots Nutrition, or in the old downtown section like Soul Food Café. These are examples of where the jobs are because each business offers innovation and a reflection of the community itself.

In the face of this evident inattention for small business concerns, city officials get all giddy when major corporate giants want to consider moving to their fare town. Whereas, unlike small business entrepreneurs who reside locally, not a one of these large corporate entities have any of their executives living within their respective voter’s district. Cities that want to encourage a more greener and energy efficient environment should add the driving factor into the equation because in order to meet all of the needs of small service concerns you have to drive all over town adding onto petroleum waste and pollution.

Essential survival products and services cannot be garnered at the local big box retailer’s expo centers. All the while, smaller concerns are squeezing into tiny strip malls around the county, or compromising to occupy the left over commercial buildings unkempt by absentee landlords. What’s more, these increasingly rare strip-malls that dot the neglected corridors of our cities are constantly being overlooked for exterior face lifts or some kind of façade improvement that could be expensed from these flying federal stimulus dollars.

How can the next generation of our offspring emerge as entrepreneurs or have opportunities to cultivate their God given talents and passions when their business districts are limited to showcasing trendy garments, pricy electronics and unhealthy food eateries? Economic development has to include an attraction and an element to best retain the culture of a city or eventually its’ citizenry will become discontent with this seemingly pretentious commerce. It happened in Los Angeles both in 1965 and 1992, where although the anger was perpetuated by unfair public justice, the people’s outcry was directed solely at the lack luster interest of its day-to-day marginalized business trade and commerce.

One only has to review the success the City of Pasadena is benefiting from embracing small businesses, where the commercial connective outcome is outstanding for the community. Now is the time to seize these abundant Federal economic stimulus funds that cities are receiving so they can be directed toward small business inclusion and appreciation. In essence, by incorporating stronger city planning a more sustainable community will emerge and it will be strengthened through small business capacity building as such, these companies will be better positioned to work in concert with local residents.