Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News (MBL Media Sponsor)
It may be easy to connect how small, locally-owned businesses support a healthy local economy – but have you connected the dots between small businesses and a healthy community? Researchers have. They found that counties with higher concentrations of locally-owned businesses have healthier citizens with lower mortality, obesity and diabetes rates.
But you may be thinking, small businesses can’t provide the same level of wages, health insurance and other employee benefits that keep citizens healthy like large employers can. This may have been true in the past; however between 1988 and 2003, wages from large businesses dropped 33% and employee access to health insurance decreased significantly as well. Also, where wages and benefits fall short, small business contribute to healthy communities in other ways.
A high concentration of small businesses cultivates an entrepreneurial spirit in a community. This can-do attitude leads to more community engagement addressing issues like public health. These entrepreneurs don’t wait for outside help to overcome their obstacles; instead they do what they can now to meet their goals.
For example, Tracie Smith of Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam, recently featured on NHPR’s Getting By, Getting Ahead Series, has a goal to provide her workers with health insurance — an especially big challenge for seasonal employers like farmers. While she is unable to provide health insurance coverage for her employees right now, she is able to pay half of their premiums this year. As her farm becomes more and more financially sustainable in coming years, she will provide her workers with full health care coverage.
Small business owners like Smith are working to make our community healthier by adopting healthier business practices and supporting policies and initiatives. One such initiative is Vision 2020 with its goal to make us the healthiest community by 2020. Vision 2020 was founded by Cheshire Medical Center in 2006 and a 30 member advisory board made up of organizations, coalitions and businesses guides this initiative. A healthy community, according to Vision 2020, “offers jobs that pay livable wages and workplaces that provide healthy environments for a safe and active work day.” Learn more about Vision 2020 at www.healthiestcommunity.org.
There are many locally-owned business providing products and services everyday that nurture our health, such as Cheshire Wellness Center and Phoenix Medical Products; yoga and massage therapists like Yoga With Josephine and MB Massage Studio; and don’t forget farmers and chefs like the Woosters at Picadilly Farm Community Supported Agriculture and Alan Crofut at Unbridled Chocolates. Alan shared, “I cook like every mouthful counts double for your health!” He chooses the best ingredients and leaves behind corn syrup, white sugars and non-organic ingredients.
There are many more examples of local businesses contributing directly and indirectly to building a healthier community. We’d really love to collect your stories, whether you’re an employer, employee or a fan of locally-owned businesses. Share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a local business owner looking to increase your employee’s health and wellness benefits, you may decide to attend the “Healthy Employees Make Healthy Companies” Business to Business Brown Bag Lunch at the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce (GKCC) on Friday, August 10, noon – 1 p.m. Occupational Health and Wellness Management will discuss what it means to provide a healthy workplace and offer ways you can improve health at work. The cost is $5 for GKCC member and $15 for non-members (bring your own lunch; beverage provided). Reserve a seat by calling 603-352-1303.
Another way we’re getting healthier is by participating in community events that get us moving. The Otter Limits Triathlon is happening on September 15, 2012 starting at 9 a.m. at the Otter Brook Dam in Keene. It’s not only a race to the finish line, but it’s a race to make the 10% Shift. Otter Limits Triathlon is shifting 10% of its revenues to Monadnock Buy Local. Help Otter Limits Triathlon make the 10% Shift by registering to participate or become a volunteer to help support the race. Details are at http://www.90percentmental.net.
Help more of us make the 10% Shift by becoming a citizen member of Monadnock Buy Local. For $25, you’ll help us meet our mission, be listed as a citizen member on our website and receive an “I Support Monadnock Buy Local” sticker to display proudly. Become a Citizen Member at http://monadnocklocal.org/join-us or mail your check to MBL, 25 Roxbury Street – Suite C, Keene NH 03431.
Thank a small business owner today – for making us all more healthy and wealthy each day.