Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business and being your own boss? Thirty million Americans have and are. American small businesses produce almost half of our great country’s gross domestic product and employ almost half of its workforce.

That’s why you, American small business owners and entrepreneurs, are so important to our country and why so many resources through the CARES Act have been deployed to support your vitally-important businesses during the economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic. The U.S. economy depends on the health of our small business sector to provide jobs and income to over 60 million small business owners and their employees.

Not only this, but small businesses are important because they provide entrepreneurs with opportunities to achieve financial success and independence. That’s what the American dream is all about. Can you imagine a world where the only jobs available are provided by Amazon, Walmart and Google? Your ability to earn a living for your family would be dependent on the whims and caprice of large corporations and the financial markets that fund them.

Small businesses are nimble, innovative and create jobs. They offer variety in the marketplace in ways that major corporations can’t. They supply and support major industries with parts and services. They offer a way for humans to express their individuality and independence.

Small businesses and entrepreneurship are the purest form of the expression of freedom in the free world. What’s my proof? What are the first things that open up in autocratic countries when iron-fisted rulers ease personal and economic restrictions? Small businesses!

So how do we support our American small businesses and entrepreneurs? Buying local is always a good start. This requires that we forego the convenience of Amazon for a short drive down the street. Especially in a small town and rural America, if you want a local restaurant or furniture store to stay in business, you must make the effort.

If you’re a purchasing manager for a local industrial plant you can do your part, as well, by sourcing and purchasing local products and services whenever you can. This creates local jobs, local tax revenues, supports local businesses and stimulates local economic benefit for everyone. This is part of an effect known as the “employment multiplier,” where local plants provide direct, indirect and induced jobs that impact the local economy.

Direct jobs are the employees of the plant. Indirect jobs are those created to support the local plant (trucking and transportation services, repair and cleaning services, suppliers and such). Induced jobs are those that are organically created in the local market by the increased spending of the direct and indirect jobs (such as restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters and such). For example, the coal industry has an “employment multiplier” of 4.5, meaning for every one coal industry job 4.5 additional jobs are created in the local economy. Oil and gas has a multiplier of almost 7 to 1. Local purchasing agents, the job you help create by purchasing local products and services might be your son’s or daughter’s. Think about that the next time you source a low-cost widget from China!

Bottom line: Whether you are an employee, business owner or an industrial purchasing agent, buy local. Local small businesses depend on your patronage, and the U.S. economy depends on local small businesses!

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Day Shelmire is the Director of the UT Tyler-Longview SBDC, which covers Gregg, Harrison, Marion, Panola, Rusk and Upshur Counties of East Texas. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can contact their local SBDC for advice on how to start, grow or fix their small business. Call (903) 757-5857 for an appointment with an experience business advisor.