While many economic ecosystems are based upon large corporate interests or small independent businesses but never both — or end up cannibalizing the latter for the former — Austin is the rare bird that’s home to offices of several large global companies, from Whole Foods to Facebook, while also supporting and sustaining a vibrant and bustling small business community. The average Austinite is supremely aware of their individual role as consumer, and takes pride in voting with their dollars at local independent establishments from bookstores to food trucks to media and more. The refrain to “keep Austin weird” includes keeping Austin individual and self-sustaining, and that means investing in the local community rather than letting all the resources and income stream out of the city and into large conglomerates.
City Support for Small Business Development
Individual citizens aren’t the only ones devoted to keeping independent businesses running sustainably; the Austin Chamber of Commerce promises that “the Austin area won’t just welcome your business – it will make it better.” The lack of state taxes, competitive wages, and wide talent pool of skilled employees (which is only growing!) make Austin an increasingly appealing home for small businesses of all stripes. Solid and thoughtful infrastructure, like reliable public transportation, only bolster this appeal. Perhaps most telling about Austin’s commitments to its local small business owners is Austin’s Small Business Program courtesy of the Economic Development Department. Designed for small businesses that are just starting out, established, or even relocating to the area, they provide counseling and assistance to small local businesses “to strengthen their business capability and survivability.” Business owners can partake in business education classes, use a lawyer referral service, use it to find a CPA, and more. They can help point business owners towards sources of funding, from arts funding to family business loans, and run events like a women’s entrepreneurial luncheon to strengthen connections within the small business community.
Texas Business Resources
Austin also provides resources and opportunities for small businesses to network and learn from each other, like the Austin Independent Business Alliance and Locally Austin, an interactive map of small locally-owned businesses, as well as resources for small business owners to be supported by the city and state, like the BizAid small business program, relocation resources, the Economic Growth Business Incubator, and more. The state of Texas as a whole offers small business assistance, an Economic Development Bank, and a variety of economic incentives for businesses considering relocation.
Small business is the backbone of communities across America, creating jobs, stimulating local economies, preserving local crafts and culture, and valuing sustainability and hard work over corporate success. The difference in Austin is that its citizens and its local government know this, and try to invest as much back into small and independent business as those businesses do in their own communities.