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Alternatives to Big Box Development

Like governmental bodies across the country, Chicago heavily favors big businesses from out of town with development subsidies and other support, despite growing awareness of the contribution of mega-retailers to problems ranging from pollution and traffic congestion to stagnating wages and declining health coverage.

In fact, many locally-owned small businesses are more profitable and do far more to strengthen local economies, according to Michael Shuman, author of “The Small-Mart Revolution.” Where big businesses have the advantage is in access to financing and influence over public policy, he argues.

Shuman is one of two authors being sponsored by Local First Chicago in coming weeks to contribute to ongoing discussions on how to protect and preserve local business, including proposals to designate chain-free business districts.

Shuman favors free-market solutions to level the playing field; one of his ideas is creating local stock markets to help capitalize businesses excluded by their size from national exchanges. Author Stacy Mitchell has compiled “best practices” for local retailers, working with the Hometown Advantage project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. But she also promotes protective ordinances such as size cap policies.

Shuman will discuss “The Small-Mart Revolution” in a program at the Jefferson Tap, 235 N. Jefferson, on Monday, October 23 at 7 p.m.

Mitchell will discuss her new book, “The Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses,” at Women and Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark, on Wednesday, November 8 at 7:30 p.m.

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Category: development, retail

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