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Renowned as ‘big box shopping mecca,’ Fairview Heights goes big on small business


Just Wright: As part of the City of Fairview Heights’ effort to call attention to its many small businesses, it is taking a more proactive approach to encouraging ribbon cuttings at new establishments such as this one, marking the opening of Just Wright Realty at 10111 Lincoln Trail. Hosted by the Metro-East Regional Chamber of Commerce and held recently with Mayor Mark Kupsky, Aldermen Brenda Wagner and Anthony LeFlore and the city’s director of economic development, Paul Ellis, among those in attendance. Wielding the scissors for the cutting were Pierre Cochran and Tiaa Harris.

Even though Fairview Heights has gained a reputation as the retail shopping hub of southern Illinois because of its regional mall, several “big box” stores and multiple shopping centers, there are dozens of small businesses that represent a vital component of the community.

With this in mind, city officials and others partnering with them have orchestrated a campaign to encourage trade at those establishments by focusing on them during Small Business Saturday, (this year on Nov. 26) at the end of Thanksgiving week each year and following the day commonly known as Black Friday.

First observed in the United States on Nov. 27, 2010, Small Business Saturday is a copyrighted designation for the purpose of calling attention to the more locally-oriented, not-as-huge retail stores and services which provide alternative choices to the larger, more corporate structures.

The City of Fairview Heights’ director of economic development, Paul Ellis, has been a driving force behind the local Small Business Saturday movement which was the subject of a proclamation issued by Mayor Mark Kupsky earlier this month.

In that proclamation, he focused on the importance of small businesses because of the jobs they create, the boost to the local economy they provide and the preservation and stability they represent in preserving the integrity of the neighborhoods where they are located and the community as a whole. Additionally, and very importantly for Fairview Heights, small businesses contribute to sales tax income for the city.

The city is reliant on this source of revenue to fund its day-to-day functions because, unlike the vast majority of municipalities in Illinois, the only real estate tax paid by property owners here goes to other government units like the county and township, school districts and taxing bodies whose boundaries encompass us. Therefore, with no collection of real estate tax, the City of Fairview Heights relies much more heavily on retail sales tax as a source of funding than other towns which have both.

In urging Fairview Heights residents to support small business merchants this Saturday, Nov. 26, and throughout the year, Kupsky cited figures from the federal level indicating there are currently 32.5 million such entities in the nation that have created over 65 percent of net new jobs between 2000 and 2019.

Fairview Heights has signed on as a “neighborhood champion” in conjunction with Small Business Saturday and, in doing so, has put together a team of supportive parties partnering in the promotional effort.

Sponsored at the nationwide level by American Express, Small Business Saturday is designed, according to Ellis, to be somewhat of a counterpart to the Black Friday sales, which focus consumers’ attention more on larger stores, and Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend), when e-commerce and online shopping is encouraged and proliferates.

Participating in this effort with the city are Associated Bank, the Metro East Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Metro East Business Incubator, St. Clair Square and The Fource Group.

This project has resulted in the development of “tool kits” with items for small business merchants to use, sharing methods of calling attention to Small Business Saturday in print and social media and other means to promote traffic at the applicable establishments. The tool kits consist of posters, yard signs, logos, window clings and how the businesses can benefit from the usage of the American Express interactive website’s “shop small” map.

In suggesting that small businesses participate, they are being encouraged to create incentive promotions, discounts, giveaway items and other marketing ideas to help drive customers to them.

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