As consumers, my family & I love the eclectic mix of family owned businesses found in Seattle’s different neighborhood communities. Some of our favorite restaurants include Junebaby (https://www.junebabyseattle.com/), Café Selam (https://www.cafeselam.com/), HoneyHole (https://thehoneyhole.com/), Island Soul (https://www.islandsoulrestaurant.com/), and the Columbia City Bakery (https://www.columbiacitybakery.com/). We look forward to the day when these restaurants can return to normal as gathering places for food & comradery in the community. The business communities in America’s urban areas, especially the poorer communities, have been “ROCKED” by the two-fisted body blows of COVID-19 and the non-peaceful components that were generated by the George Floyd murder.
The inclination presently is to avoid and even abandon these communities as consumers and with investment. The flight to the suburbs and relocation to different states by businesses and people is being actively discussed in the aftermath of the riots by company executives and at dinner tables. In many cases, it started before 2020 because of poor policy decisions by local governments from Seattle (https://www.geekwire.com/2019/exclusive-amazon-moving-thousands-employees-seattle-relocating-key-division-nearby-city/) to New York City (https://www.wsj.com/articles/people-were-leaving-new-york-city-before-the-coronavirus-now-what-11587916800). It is detrimental to America for this attitude to gain momentum. Detroit was once a city of prosperity with significant opportunity provided to a broad spectrum of their citizens. That status changed over time when jobs and opportunities left the city. Today, vacant houses are being demolished in many formerly robust neighborhoods. (https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2019/10/28/detroit-blight-program-expansion/2484719001/). This future could happen to the Big Apple and the Emerald City. It is not one that we as residents of King County can allow to happen. It is time for the people of King County to stand up, as they did against unwarranted police brutality in Minneapolis, and support vocally and with action our urban environments. It is not the time to go silently into the night or ignore a community in need of support.
So, how can the people who love Seattle and want to preserve it for future generations as a wonderful place to live, work, and visit take action.
The following are five ways:
- Support With Your Dollars – If you want a favorite small business to survive post COVID-19, the best thing you can do is support them directly with purchases. Entrepreneurs are resilient and have a positive outlook by nature. They are not looking for government assistance. They want to succeed or fail based on product quality, customer service, and execution of their vision. A significant majority of people who get COVID-19 return to full health. It is time for America to provide the emotional & financial support needed to help as many family owned businesses as possible rebound from a storm they did not create to return to health, so they can offer continued employment to their staff and valued products & services to their communities.
- Advocate for Family Businesses – Creation and management of a family owned business is more difficult when the garden it calls home is not maintained and nurtured. A friend of mine, Bill Rieg, owns Seattle Flowers (https://www.seattleflowers.com). The florist shop has been serving Seattle residents from birth to death since 1947. Bill happily rides his motorcycle into work to serve his customers. Sadly, the smile often leaves his face as he arrives at the shop when he sees garbage on the street, closed storefronts, and homeless people camping adjacent to his shop making it less attractive as a retail venue for consumers. Bill is engaged in the business community and tries to work with the police and government officials to make Pioneer Square a place families want to visit, shop, and eat. Bill needs help. I encourage anyone who sees trash on the street to pick it up, engage with government and let them know they can do better maintaining Seattle, and if they are unable to do better, vote and replace them with people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work to make Seattle prosper as a business environment.
- Become an Entrepreneur – When the Seahawks won the Super Bowl with the best defense in the NFL, it was not because Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor were great individual players. It was because close to twenty players worked together as a defensive unit executing individually and as a cohesive group. Similarly, one business cannot do it alone. The best business environments have a spectrum of businesses offering diverse products and services. A trip to the local hairstylist can result in a recommendation of a restaurant, a painter, or a place to get your cracked phone screen fixed. It can also result in a stop at a bakery or kitchen store next door. The business community always welcomes new entrepreneurs with vision who have the ability to execute. New businesses in a community create employment and a symbiotic environment that fertilizes other companies in the community. Action always speaks louder than words. If you want your community to thrive and prosper, one way to support that objective is to open or purchase a business.
- Financially Invest in the Community – Many in America who have successfully climbed the limitless ladder of opportunity available to all in our free market economy started from humble beginnings in our cities. Those individuals have a choice. They can take their success and turn their backs on the communities they grew up in and the weakest in society or bring resources back into the communities and help make them a better place. An example of a leader who took action to help minority owned businesses survive COVID-19 is Magic Johnson who had his company step up to facilitate Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Small Business Administration to address inefficiency in program distribution activity. The following story shares how Earvin Johnson working as a janitor in high school started building his vision of who he wanted to be, a dream he fulfilled through hard work, vision, and business acumen and what he is doing for entrepreneurs in their time of need. (https://www.seattletimes.com/business/with-100-million-magic-johnson-pays-it-forward-to-businesses-in-need/). Investment takes many forms. One program created to encourage investment in lower income areas of the nation by our federal government with the passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 was the Opportunity Zone Program. This program was visionary and provided economic leadership for disadvantaged communities in a new way by offering tax incentives for real estate investors to deploy their dollars in geographic areas that historically did not attract investment. The wisdom of the program is that it did not require the public sector to spend taxpayer dollars, but was designed to motivate private sector investment which in the short term would create construction industry employment opportunities and in the long term improve neighborhoods and bring businesses offering additional employment opportunities into the communities. The following website provides information on the areas where the program is in place in Washington, https://www.commerce.wa.gov/growing-the-economy/opportunity-zones/, the following local company, https://pinnacleoz.com/, led by Leo Backer & Jeff Feinstein facilitates investment opportunities utilizing the program. If you are interested in learning more about how to invest in real estate in the poorer communities in the Pacific Northwest, I encourage you to contact Pinnacle Partners.
- Donate Time & Money – Contributions to make the world a better place come in many forms, small & large. Each contribution is valued. Quality non-profit organizations exist that support the small business community in Seattle. One IBA supports is Business Impact Northwest (https://businessimpactnw.org/). If you would like to support an organization that has identified end users in need of resources, I encourage you to consider supporting Business Impact Northwest. Alyssa Pizzaro, their Corporate Giving Officer, would welcome your calls and questions. You can reach Alyssa at (206) 324-4330 Ext. 123 or AlyssaP@BUSINESSIMPACTNW.ORG. Contributions to the community do not need to take financial form to make a difference. Many contribute to the community by volunteering. The Seattle Police Department and police officers around the nation have been put under a critical eye in recent weeks. Holding those in positions of power and responsibility accountable, including mayors, city council members, and police chiefs, is never a bad thing. However, recognition of the overwhelming number of good people serving and protecting our communities working as exemplary peace officers is also necessary. Just this December the 30 year anniversary of Seattle’s late night basketball program was recognized (https://southseattleemerald.com/2019/12/17/teen-late-night-program-celebrates-30-years-of-youth-engagement/). Programs like this one and the people, including police officers, who make them happen cannot be abandoned. They need community support and encouragement to continue to serve the citizens of Seattle.
Very few cities in the world have iconic symbols that represent them that are recognized internationally. New York has the Statue of Liberty, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and Seattle has the Space Needle. It is my hope that the Seattle community can come together making the effort & investment necessary, so that the Space Needle and the city it calls home can serve as a symbol of what is possible in terms of achievement for a metropolitan area in 2020, 2030, and 2050.
IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses. IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.