My mission for Small Biz Survival is to help rural entrepreneurs prosper, so they can help their communities prosper. The best solutions come from within, so if I can help entrepreneurs prosper, they are in the best position to know and address the problems in their communities.
That’s why I attended the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies Conference. The idea of businesses working together to build a strong local economy appeals to me.
This was certainly true in the past. Amy Kedron of Buffalo, New York, told of the historic buildings funded by early philanthropic business owners in the late 1800s and early 1900s. For example, Kleinhans Music Hall was built by donation of the owner of a mens’ clothing store.
“I made my money in Buffalo. I want to leave it to Buffalo,” Kedron quoted Edward Kleinhans as saying.
“One of the best things you can do to drive societal change is start a successful business,” Fred Keller said.
Keller is the founder, CEO, president and chairman of Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He believes a company can make a difference in the community in addition to making a profit. Businesses can contribute more to the economy than just jobs.
At Cascade Engineering, they manufacture plastics, which is not usually thought of in terms of being a sustainable business. But at Cascade, they report on a triple bottom line: profit, people and the environment. They’ve gone from spending over $300,000 per year on trash disposal, to spending zero. They presume there is no trash; every item has some potential as a resource.
“All businesses need resources,” Keller said. “Protecting and conserving resources is now good business.”
Keller teaches a university course on sustainability as a driver of innovation.
“The emerging sustainable economy is full of opportunities,” Keller said. “It is real. It will develop, perform and grow.”
“Many smart people go into nonprofit or government to effect change in society,” Keller said. “It might surprise you to learn that one of the best things you can do to drive societal change is start a successful business.”
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