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Small Businesses Are A Big Part Of The U.S. Economy

Small Business Saturday serves as a reminder that the neighborhood store, clothing shop or restaurant form the underpinnings of American business

The Friday after Thanksgiving, as all shopaholics know, is "Black Friday," traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.

With the rise of the techie generation who shop online, the Monday after Turkey Day has been dubbed "Cyber Monday."

But the Saturday in-between, Nov. 26, is Small Business Saturday, an effort to get consumers to spend their money and patronize those non-chain, neighborhood enterprises.

From a neighborhood impact and local economy perspective, Small Business Saturday might be the most important of the three.

Sure, Georgia boasts a blue-chip roster of Fortune 500 firms including Home Depot, Aflac, Newell Rubbermaid, SunTrust Banks and UPS.

And while all of them have scores of employees, the average Georgian is more likely to be working for a small business, which the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy defines as having fewer than 500 employees.

"A lot of the job creation that goes on is in the small- to medium-sized businesses," said Roger C. Tutterow, an economics professor at Mercer University.

“The big companies, when they expand, they get the attention in terms of headlines, but on a percentage basis, it may not be as large as when a smaller business expands.”

In fact, the number of small businesses in Georgia was 177,445 in 2006, the most recent figures available, according to the SBA's Office of Advocacy.

They accounted for 97.9 percent of the state's employers and 46.3 percent of its private-sector employment, according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce's Bureau of the Census.

That means the lion's share of Georgia's total economic output, which JPMorgan Chase estimates will be $364 billion this year, will come from small businesses, like the .

Opened in 2008, the restaurant, located in Glenwood Park, has a full-time staff of 25.

Owners Todd Martin and his wife, Cindy Shera, live in Grant Park and most of the Shed’s employees live in Grant Park, Ormewood Park and other nearby communities.

“A small business is where you really keep your finger on the pulse of the neighborhood and of the community,” Martin said. “It’s nice to be able to put a name and face with a business when you’re spending your hard-earned money there and it’s nice to develop those relationships.”

Beyond those interpersonal relationships, the restaurant has a direct impact on Glenwood Park and surrounding neighborhoods by paying taxes to the city and state, which are then funneled back into the local economy.

The employees, in turn, also pay state and local taxes and buy local goods and services.

But the Shed also helps explain just how important small businesses  — when added collectively — are to the $14 trillion U.S. economy.

The restaurant buys its meats and vegetables from a slew of local farmers and vendors as close as the Old Fourth Ward to Covington to as far as Thomasville in South Georgia. [See our interactive map.]

Each transaction supports the local economies of those communities.

“It can have a significant effect beyond what their direct output is,” Tutterow, the economist, said.

Indeed, the Shed’s economic web goes well beyond Georgia’s borders to food vendors in North Carolina and Tennessee to wineries in California, Oregon and Washington and overseas to a host of countries including South Africa, France, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand.

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