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Guest Column: Be Kind and Shop Locally

This guest column is written by Tom Rounds. Tom, along with his wife Shelly, own four businesses in the Pierre community. He is also the brother of Senator Mike Rounds.

With Christmas just weeks away, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of buying gifts. It’s easy to be excited about seeing family and friends.  And it’s easy to forget to be kind to those who are working in the retail, manufacturing or service industries.

As a small business owner, I know firsthand the challenges that come during the holiday season. And this year, our biggest challenge is finding employees. You’ve undoubtedly noticed the help wanted signs in hundreds of businesses across the state. It’s alarming, but what’s even more alarming is when the sign says, “Closed today due to staff shortage.”

Owning a small business is hard. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of businesses fail within the first year. By year five, that number jumped to 50 percent. But every year, thousands of South Dakotans embark on the American dream of owning their own business. And every year, these business owners become the new mentors and new donors for our communities.

We all know shopping locally keeps more money in our economy, supports local jobs and is good for our towns. But let’s talk about what else these local businesses do for our communities.

They are the people who serve as the first work mentors for our children. They take a chance on inexperienced teenagers and teach them about responsibility and work ethic. And they give your kids a paycheck so they can begin to learn fiscal responsibility.

Local business owners are the first ones tapped to donate for school functions, sporting events and any other fundraiser you can think of. And most of the time, these businesses give, and they give and they give some more because they know they are supporting their community and their customers.

And then when they aren’t being asked to donate, some business owners take it upon themselves to continue to find ways to help. They might donate 10 percent of their profits to a local family or organization.  Or in the case of one Pierre eating establishment, they donated a portion of their profits to a competing business who had recently lost everything to a fire. If that’s not a sense of community, I don’t know what is.

The other day I saw a sign that said, “Be kind to our employees. We are short staffed and they are doing the best they can.” Let’s face it, the last two years have been tough for local businesses and we need your support now more than ever.

It’s easy to get caught up in the convenience of online shopping or traveling to a bigger town to get what you need. But before you hit send on that next order - especially with all of your holiday shopping coming up - think about your local businesses and the people they employ, the taxes they pay and the products they offer. And don’t forget to be kind.