GARNER: We must support local Milwaukee businesses

Milwaukee+businesses+have+made+changes+to+uphold+health+safety.

Photo by Zach Bukowski

Milwaukee businesses have made changes to uphold health safety.

As Milwaukee continues to combat coronavirus and mitigate lasting effects in all sectors of the city, it is essential that consumers make more conscious decisions that will prioritize and support locally-owned small businesses. 

Helping local businesses in Milwaukee is essential in helping the city, its businesses and its people recover and return to financial stability. 

As the United States grappled with rising coronavirus cases and deaths and new public safety measures  at the beginning of the year, many businesses suffered financial losses as a result of people staying home and spending less money. 

Milwaukee businesses are not excluded from this financial loss. 

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors estimates at least a $105 million loss in revenue, according to a May 15 news story

To address the economic crisis, Congress passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at relieving financial hardship across the United States in March. 

Large corporations like airlines were given $500 billion and small businesses were given $370 billion, both surpassing funds allocated for public health, education and safety net programs. 

In the state of Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers gave $75 million to small businesses that suffered from the coronavirus shutdown mid-May. 

Additionally, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barret said 400 local businesses will share about $4 million in federal aid to assist in recovery, according to a July 16 news story

This aid is part of the Department of City Development’s Restart Program, which is funded by the CARES Act and aims to help businesses recover from financial loss from the pandemic. 

Although the city is receiving state and federal assistance, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce estimates sales for Milwaukee-owned businesses are expected to decline about 55% for this year’s third quarter after receiving survey responses from businesses. 

With sales expecting to decrease for over half of local businesses, finding and buying locally is more important than ever. As consumers, we must make a more deliberate effort to buy from businesses that will directly benefit the Milwaukee community.  

Common objections against shopping from locally-owned small businesses are that it is more expensive, less convenient and unpredictable — you don’t know what quality or type of product you will get. Significant appeals and selling points of big box retailers, like Target or McDonald’s, are that products are cheaper, you can find the stores across the nation and you know what to expect from the products you buy. 

While shopping from chain retailers is sometimes unavoidable and is more favorable by the consumer, these stores often do not directly contribute to the communities they are in.  

Locally-owned businesses can create more and higher paying jobs, more opportunities for innovation of new products and more opportunities for individuals to have control over their employment. Additionally, they can create community identity, increase community involvement and decrease negative effects on the environment that are associated with transportation and manufacturing.

Moreover, local businesses can avoid increasing inequalities within the business, increase tax revenue and can encourage other small business owners to pursue start-ups. 

These types of businesses are better for the economy and the community. 

During this pandemic, ordering takeout or doing curbside pickup for local Milwaukee businesses is a simple way to support community business owners while also maintaining health safety standards.

WISN 12 started “Operation: Shop Local,” in which the news organization started compiling a list of local businesses in Milwaukee for community members to support during the pandemic. 

USA Today, Visit Milwaukee, Local First Milwaukee and the Marquette Wire’s Arts & Entertainment section have also compiled lists and resources for local businesses in Milwaukee.  

Additionally, it is important during this time and moving forward to support Black owned businesses in Milwaukee in order to support the Black community and act as an ally. Supporting Black owned businesses will also give financial support as they continue to deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic as well as persisting systemic issues. 

MKE Black provides resources and a directory of Black owned businesses in Milwaukee. 

We are living through a very unprecedented time in which many of us are reevaluating ourselves and our place in society. 

It is very easy to feel discouraged and pessimistic. Many people are feeling like they cannot make an impact or create change. 

Where you spend your money can make a difference. By making the conscious decision to buy from a locally-owned business rather than a chain, you have control over where that money goes and who you support. 

For example, rather than going to Starbucks, consider supporting a local Milwaukee coffee shop like Stone Creek Coffee, Coffee Makes You Black, Rochambo Coffee and Tea House, Vida Coffee, Manhattan Mocha or Valentine Coffee Co. to name a few. 

It’s essential during this pandemic and moving forward that we do all we can to support the community we live in. Though it may not be financially or logistically feasible to buy all products from local businesses, starting small now and rethinking consumer habits is what the city of Milwaukee needs. 

This story was written by Alexandra Garner. She can be reached at alexandra.garner@marquette.edu.