Shop local, shop small, support small businesses. Many of us know small business owners—or are business owners ourselves. We know that buying from our friends’ and families’ businesses matters to them. Local businesses, though, also matter beyond individual livelihoods. They have a far-reaching economic impact and contribute to community vibrancy.
Here’s our roundup of the top 10 ways local businesses build stronger communities.
#1. Economic recovery
The pandemic has affected the economy—and small businesses have, in many cases, taken a harder hit than national companies. Those that survived the disruption of the last two years did so because of loyal customers, innovative thinking, and the commitment of their leaders and employees. Now, small businesses and community leaders can work together to bolster economic recovery. Networking within organizations like GOA Regional Business Association can help to promote collaboration.
#2. Local character
What gives communities character? Hint: it’s not Walmart and Lowe’s, which can be located anywhere. It’s the small and independent businesses like local restaurants, boutiques, and more. These companies help to make communities distinctive, which can attract new residents, other businesses, and even national recognition.
#3. Strengthening communities
Local businesses can contribute to revitalizing communities. In some cases, local businesses pioneer the transformation of troubled neighborhoods. Even in prosperous communities, local business owners can come together to make greater change than they could individually. Examples range from the improvement of business districts with benches, pedestrian walkways, and more to events like holiday twilight shopping, sidewalk sales, and much more.
#4. Local economic impact
Research by nonprofit organization Sustainable Connections has put numbers behind the local economic impact of shopping at local businesses. For every $100 you spend at a local business, $68 recirculates and remains in the local economy—compared to just $43 when spent at a national retailer or chain. What’s more, local businesses and local consumers are more invested in a community’s future, and they tend to be more loyal.
#5. Job creation
Since the 1970s, small businesses have been the major drivers of job creation, adding as many as 1.5 million jobs annually. These jobs can bring new opportunities for community residents or attract new talent to a community.
Entrepreneurship fuels innovation and helps open the door to prosperity. Local businesses can often offer opportunities with greater potential—and they often go to local residents, amplifying economic impact by giving community members financial security and stability.
Shopping local doesn’t only help the local economy. It’s also more sustainable. Thriving local business districts make communities more walkable, which can reduce automobile mileage by up to 25%--and lessen its impact on the environment.
#8. Community connections
Local businesses create a web of connections between neighbors. According to research by the Bank of America following the Great Recession, the majority of a local business’s customers come from the local community.
#9. Better service
We’ve all been on the giving or receiving end of poor customer service. When you live in the same community as your customers, though, it’s easier to be on your best behavior. Many local businesses go above and beyond in serving customers. Or their employees might have an extra layer of knowledge about the business’s products and services.
#10. Giving back
According to Sustainable Connections, small businesses give back at 2.5 times the rate of large, national chains. These donations support local nonprofits, events, teams, and charitable causes—and, because of community connections, generate greater community pride.
People do business with people they know—and when they do, it helps our communities. When you’re ready to think bigger about small business, local economic impact, and community vibrancy, GOA Regional Business Association is here to help. For over 40 years, GOA Regional Business Association has been providing members with unique business and personal development through networking, educational, and marketing opportunities. We’re a resource for your local business.
Over the last two years, how many people have decided to live out their dreams now that remote work is an option? We all know those people who have always wanted to live in the mountains, so now they’re living in Denver, or they want to escape the brutal Chicago-area winters, and now they’ve moved to Florida.
They’re in good company. According to research by the freelance platform Upwork, five million US workers have moved during the last two years. The freedom created by remote work has enabled many working professionals to live where they want, not necessarily where they work. Before 2020, as many as 80% of workers lived within a 90-minute commute of their offices, but now trends suggest that home markets a few hours’ drive from big cities and major airport hubs like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are heating up, too.
For all those workers who’ve pulled up stakes and left, though, there are many more who are firmly planted near their workplaces, even if they are still fully remote or working a hybrid schedule for the foreseeable future. That five million might seem like a big number, but according to the report, it’s under three percent of the US workforce. This reality leaves many of us living and working local, even as a digital-first world becomes the norm.
For those of us doing so, navigating the new world of work while living local can be a challenge. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
The power of local business
Small business is the heart of the American economy. According to the Small Business Administration, in late 2021 there were over 32.5 million businesses nationwide with 500 or fewer workers. These businesses employ nearly 50% of the private-sector workforce nationwide. So, while the face of work looks like Zoom and Teams, it’s not the entire story. Many US workers are returning or have already returned to their offices, even if part-time or on a hybrid schedule.
Small businesses also power the economy. They are major drivers of job creation: according to research, small businesses add 1.5 million jobs annually, or about two-thirds of all jobs created in the US.
Even spending with small businesses can boost the local economy. For every $100 spent with a local business, $68 stays in the local economy, as compared to $43 when that $100 is spent with a national chain, according to research by nonprofit organization Sustainable Connections.
The power of connection
Living, working, and buying local still matter. So does connecting with others—professionally and personally. It may be a new world, but networking remains a powerful investment, whether you’re looking for a job or looking to hire someone. For many of us, it’s been a while, so membership in a professional association like GOA Regional Business Association can help us dust off those social skills and make new connections.
Volunteering can also be a natural way to build those connections—and get comfortable getting out there again. Joining a group like GOA’s Strategic Plan Teams and Event Committees makes it easy and fun to develop leadership skills, work toward a common goal, and build new professional and personal relationships.
The challenges of living and working local
Remote work may have given people unprecedented geographic and schedule flexibility, but it’s introduced new challenges of its own. One of these is “proximity bias,” which means favoring those in close proximity to a workplace. This plays out in offices every day as remote workers and contractors join meetings and connect with colleagues via Zoom, Teams, and other videoconferencing and digital channels.
For managers, it can be challenging to see, hear, and include these people in the same ways as in-person workers. As professionals and business leaders, we can be aware of emerging trends such as proximity bias as well as concerns about productivity, company culture, and more in a new world of work.
Another challenge? Device etiquette. After two years in which many of us interacted with others outside our homes via tablets, smartphones, and computers first, it can be challenging to remember the finer points of communication—and of silencing or stowing devices for in-person communication.
It’s going to take some time for the post-pandemic workplace to normalize. This includes navigating the new expectations and complexities of a digital-first world. The GOA Regional Business Association can make it easier by providing resources and connections for those living and working local.
The future of work is here—and it doesn’t look the same as when we converted our kitchen tables and bedrooms into home offices in March 2020. The last two years have accelerated major shifts in workplaces and company culture, creating new expectations and changing priorities for employers and employees.
And it isn’t over—a year after it started, the Great Resignation is still underway as millions of workers have quit their jobs. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 11 million current job openings, and over 20 million people left their jobs between July and December 2021. What’s the cause? According to recent research, the seismic shifts in daily living during the pandemic accelerated some trends while also giving people time to reflect on what was working for them when it came to work—and what wasn’t. Amid historic stress and uncertainty, workers thought long and hard about their lives. As a result, millions of people decided they wanted something else out of their relationship with their employers, like more flexibility and control over their schedules and where they work. On the outs are things like commutes—and, for some, business travel.
Right now, employees have perhaps more leverage than they’ve ever had before. The competition for talent is fierce, with nearly 90% of employers reporting increased turnover rates (which, of course, drives up hiring costs while also damaging productivity). With record job openings and record quits, many employers are finding it difficult to attract candidates at all, let alone the right candidates for their roles. Skilled positions in engineering, technology, education, and medicine are among the hardest to fill—and many of these are critical to productivity and business continuity.
It’s easy to generalize and think that all employee groups have embraced the Great Resignation and the future of work, but this would be an oversimplification. Many of these emerging trends and changing priorities are being driven by younger generations in the workforce—specifically, millennials and Gen Z, according to Zety. These age groups accounted for nearly 60% of all resignations in 2021. Older workers are displaying more caution than younger, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t swayed by trends.
What do you need to know about the future of work? And what does it mean for your business? Here are a few key trends to watch.
Trends in the future of work
Four key trends related to the future of work include:
The world of work doesn’t look the same as it did two years ago. But with the challenges come new opportunities, and savvy business owners who embrace them will end up ahead. Connecting and discussing the future of work with GOA Regional Business Association members can help you stay on top of changes—and what they mean for your business.
Networking and relationship-building are all about connection. Done well, networking helps you establish and nurture long-term, meaningful relationships that can open opportunities and advance your career.
It sounds simple—but it can be anything but, especially after two years of social distancing has built up a little rust on our skills. Associations like GOA—with networking already built in—can give you a jumpstart on new business relationships. Here’s how.
Networking at events
Events can be an ideal place to make new connections with likeminded professionals. You’re all there for the same reason—to mingle, or to learn. With a packed events calendar, GOA offers something for everyone, including:
View our full events calendar with all upcoming events—and then come on out.
Networking on teams and committees
Never underestimate the power of teamwork to bring people together. Our Strategic Plans Teams and Event Committees might be for you. They bring together members to work toward a common goal, which tends to be the perfect foundation for building long-lasting relationships.
Regular meetings and planning sessions bring you together, and you can advance your leadership skills or gain new experience that can benefit you professionally and personally.
Those looking for a business focus are a great fit for our Strategic Plans Teams, which include:
If you’re more an events person, you might consider joining one of our Events Committees, which include the Wine & Beer Tasting Committee, the Business Expo Committee, the Golf Outing Committee, and the Young Professionals Community.
Networking in GONE Groups
GONE stands for Greater O’Hare Networking Executives. Our dedicated GONE groups provide a supportive network for member businesses to increase visibility, generate and share referrals, brainstorm new business ideas and…yes, build long-term relationships. It’s easier when you have a shared interest and are actively collaborating toward the greater good.
Groups meet weekly with a business-building focus. GOA currently has three GONE groups. To learn more and to join, contact our office at (630) 773-2944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Networking really is the key to success in business at every stage in your career. It’s easier, though, when you have ready-made common ground. We can help you make networking and relationship-building easier through membership.
You already know why voting is important: it gives you a voice on issues, and it helps to hold your elected officials accountable. There’s an extra dimension when you’re a business owner, though. Political advocacy can ensure that legislators understand what’s important to your business and for economic development in our region. This is an area, though, where strength in numbers matters—which is why advocacy is such an important aspect of membership in GOA Regional Business Association.
The power of small business
Small businesses power our economy. According to the Small Business Administration, as of late 2021 there are 32.5 million businesses in the US with 500 or fewer employees—the agency’s definition of a small business. These businesses employ nearly 47% of the private-sector workforce nationwide. This collective influence could be used for the betterment of business and our communities through advocacy—if only small business owners were as politically organized and influential as many other issue-voter groups (think unions, Wall Street, and others).
The importance of advocacy for business
Why is political advocacy for business so important?
Simply put, engaging in advocacy can have a direct effect on our local business community—and on individual company bottom lines. Consider, for instance, how the shift to remote work in the pandemic era has untethered so many workers from offices. Many employees have a newfound freedom of choice in where they live, so they can make decisions based on lifestyle, geographic preferences, or area infrastructure and amenities. This can lead to talent loss in certain areas. But legislation, for instance, can strengthen state investments in infrastructure and education, helping make states attractive places to live and work. It may be a general example, but it can help to illustrate how politics can influence a business-friendly environment. There are also specific examples in which legislation can directly affect the business friendliness of the area, from issues like legalization of marijuana and sports betting to noise-mitigation policies in areas adjacent to airports.
How to become more active in political advocacy for business
As noted above, effective advocacy depends in large part on strength in numbers. This is where membership in an organization like GOA can be indispensable in advocacy.
GOA engages in political advocacy for and with our members through GOA Government Affairs. We focus on:
Knowledge is power. Business owners need useful information from trusted sources—like GOA—on political issues that will impact economic growth within our northern Illinois region. With so much divisive rhetoric and polarization in today’s political climate, it can be challenging to find a reliable source. To this end, GOA Government Affairs provides informative programs to the communities we serve—making us a trusted source on current and future issues and legislation at both state and national levels.
Creating position statements
Awareness is one thing. Action is another. When appropriate, GOA Government Affairs creates position statements on state and national issues. These position statements reflect the consensus of our organization, always in support of our members and the business community. These can provide consistent talking points for advocacy with your legislators.
In addition, we offer easy access to tools that connect you with your elected officials and that provide visibility into key legislation that will be coming up for a vote in the Illinois House or Senate.
Establish and expand alliances
Back to that strength in numbers bit: through GOA Government Affairs, we work to create and expand political alliances aligned with our association values. These alliance-building efforts benefit member companies and businesses within the region, bringing together our members and communities to amplify our voices or, when necessary, to apply political pressure to key legislation.
Political advocacy is important to build or improve a business-friendly environment and promote economic development that ultimately benefits us all. If you’ve been considering how to become more involved in political advocacy for the business community, we welcome you to join us through GOA.
Networking is one of the best ways to broaden your opportunities. Whether you are looking for a job, seeking new marketing opportunities to grow your brand, or hoping to find a community of other likeminded professionals, networking is important to every professional. The pandemic has undeniably changed the way we network, shifting the emphasis from in-person to virtual (at least for now), but it hasn’t changed how essential networking is. Here’s how to create a powerful network in the new normal, both online and locally.
In an increasingly virtual world, online networking has become dominant. According to Forbes, a vibrant and professional social media presence is “the most effective way to ensure that networking online is successful.” What this means for you is that it’s essential to freshen up your social media presence. Websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are prime channels to find job postings, hear from industry leaders, and keep up with those already in your network. Whether it’s personal or for your business, keep your social media profiles up to date with recent developments and accomplishments. This shows others you are engaged. An updated profile also allows others to check out who you are and what you have achieved when you first make contact.
Networking on platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and WebEx has broken down geographic barriers, helping us stay connected despite social distancing and remote working. These platforms, however, demand a few adjustments. Try to be conscious of your surroundings; make sure nothing distracting is in view of the camera and try to reduce ambient noise as much as possible. Additionally, be aware of the lighting around you. Intense lighting coming from behind you can make your face dark on camera; lighting placed in front of you and behind your device can make you easily visible (and it’s more flattering). It’s a good idea to open the camera on whatever device you are using to check what you and your surroundings look like, as well as how clearly you appear on screen, before any video conference. And be sure to make eye contact with the camera, not with the screen.
Focus on Building a Relationship
While reaching out to others on social media can help you grow your professional network, remember, even in a digital world, networking is all about human connection. It’s important to take time to focus on the personal, according to networking experts like J. Kelly Hoey, who suggests that networkers, “think about how you can just proactively do little touchpoints and outreach.” Doing so, even virtually, through a casual check-in to see how they are doing outside of their professional life, having a video call cup of coffee, or just a quick chat about personal interests like sports or movies can help establish an even more meaningful connection, particularly during these tumultuous and isolating times. Reaching out to build a more personal connection can also amplify the value of your professional relationship with a peer.
Be sure to follow timeless protocol. A thank you letter or email as a follow up can go a long way in showing appreciation for someone’s time. For bigger favors like major introductions, recommendations, and references, consider a virtual gift card to a favorite store or a donation to a charity your connection cares about. These are excellent ways to show appreciation.
Additionally, you can expand your network by participating in local events in your business community. Groups and associations can help you establish yourself or your business among area professionals. Being part of a local association like GOA has many benefits: in-person and online events to expand your network, access to resources and opportunities to promote your business, and an instant community of professionals.
There’s an additional advantage, too: advocacy, with strength in numbers. Local policymakers and legislation can influence your business. By working with nearby professionals to learn about local legislation and advocate for your business or industry, you can network to achieve a common goal. The value of this is stressed by Knockout Networking founder Michael Goldberg, who in an interview suggests “get involved on a committee or project to forge deeper relationships.”
Networking today may look different, but the value of a robust network of professionals remains high. If you are looking to further your career or grow your business, utilizing online platforms and finding kinship through regional business associations are crucial strategies in the new normal.
Becomes third affiliate chamber for organization connecting businesses in 95 communities
The GOA Regional Business Association today welcomes the Wood Dale Chamber of Commerce as an affiliate chamber. This level of membership strengthens both organizations’ connections to businesses and members across the Chicago metro area and Illinois.
The GOA Regional Business Association is a not-for-profit, volunteer-driven business association dedicated to growing and sustaining northern Illinois’ regional business community. Its membership represents over 95 communities in the Chicago area and includes professional, service, retail, and manufacturing businesses. The GOA Regional Business Association has two other affiliate chambers, the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce, and the Itasca Chamber of Commerce. For over 40 years, since it was chartered as the GOA Regional Business Association of Industry and Commerce on January 1, 1979, the organization has provided members with unique business and personal development through networking, educational and marketing opportunities.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Wood Dale Chamber as an affiliate chamber of the GOA Regional Business Association,” said Shirlanne Lemm, President & CEO of GOA Regional Business Association. “Over the last 18 months the pandemic has shown us how important it is to have a strong organization representing the business community. Our Association becomes stronger, and we provide all members with more opportunities for growing their network and their business.”
Since its founding nearly 50 years ago, the Wood Dale Chamber of Commerce has been a liaison to the City of Wood Dale business members. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of local businesses, the chamber supports the community and the organizations in town. Affiliate membership will strengthen ties between Wood Dale and area communities, expand networks for members of both organizations, and foster relationship-building.
“As we honor our history, remain grateful for the present and look forward to the future, the Wood Dale Chamber is very excited to become an affiliate of the GOA Regional Business Association,” said Caterina Aiello, Vice President and Head of Retail Banking, Schaumburg Bank & Trust.
Wood Dale Chamber of Commerce becomes the first affiliate chamber to join in more than a decade—and the first affiliate member to do so as an existing entity. The Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce was founded as an affiliate chamber of GOA in January of 1999 when several community businesses identified a need for a more locally focused organization. The Itasca Chamber of Commerce was founded as an affiliate chamber of GOA in October of 2010 in partnership with the Village of Itasca and several Itasca business leaders.
New year, fresh start: this time of year is ripe for making changes, at home and in business. If you’ve been wondering whether membership in the GOA Regional Business Association is right for you, check out our top 10 reasons to join.
Is it a challenge to make networking a priority? The pandemic era has stalled networking for many business owners and professionals, but membership in our Association can help you restart it. We host a range of regular programs, from our monthly luncheon with keynote speakers and high-speed networking, to Business After Hours and our morning Chamber Net sessions. You also can participate in our Signature Events, like our annual Wine & Beer Tasting, Business Expo, and Golf Outing. Learn more.
Learning is lifelong. Through membership, you can learn more about your industry, our area, and what’s shaping the market. Members participate in our Manufacturing Alliance, join our Legislative Breakfast with Illinois state representatives, and regularly take part in discussions as part of our President’s Round Table. See our events calendar for more.
#3: Teams and Committees
Are you a natural at planning? An enthusiastic go-getter? You’ll love working with other members on our strategic plan teams or event committees. Doing so is a great way to build relationships and develop your leadership skills while having fun.
#4: Community Ties
Did you know that our members have ties to 95 communities in the Chicago area? Whether you’re looking for new prospects to grow your business, seeking to tap into a new market, or want to know more about a particular area or industry, you’ll find ways to build strong community ties as a member.
You already know the power of word-of-mouth to help you land business as well as when you’re looking for services. Our members look to our Association for referrals to quality vendors and services—and we only refer member businesses. You’ll have both sides of the benefit when you join.
#6: Marketing and Publicity
Membership in our Association can help you raise your business’s profile, through connections to other members and communities as well as through our advertising services. We offer advertising on our website and in regular emails, as well as promotional opportunities at events throughout the year. We can also share member promotions and events on our social media. Learn more about members’ marketing opportunities.
#7: Mailing Labels & Lists
Boost your marketing or make a splash with your announcement. Only members can purchase mailing lists and mailing labels through our Association—this can be a great resource to incorporate in your promotions.
#8. Notary Services
In need of a notary? Don’t waste time running around. We offer notary services as a convenience to all members. In addition, as a recognized US chamber of commerce, we can provide certificate of origin documentation services free to our members. Learn more about our services.
#9: Speakers Bureau
Need a guest speaker? Looking to fill a knowledge gap? The Association’s Speakers Bureau is a list of members with expertise on a wide variety of key business topics. You can only tap into this resource as a member.
#10: Purchasing Power
Need office products and services? As a member, you’ll have the purchasing power to save, regardless of your business size. Our partnership with Warehouse Direct gives members national contract pricing with local supply provider support for needs ranging from lighting and office supplies to cleaning and janitorial services, school products, and more. Learn more.
This list is just the beginning of the many benefits you’ll unlock with membership in the GOA Regional Business Association. And it doesn’t capture the fun and friendship you’ll find in our members. Whether you work for one of the Chicago area’s biggest businesses, run a family-owned firm, or are just starting your small business, our Association will help you with networking, educational and marketing opportunities. We look forward to welcoming you in 2022.