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OPINION: Cutting the ribbon

By Billy Singleton/ Chilton County Chamber of Commerce president

One of the most visible functions of Chambers of Commerce across the nation is the hosting of ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new businesses, retail outlets, manufacturers and other institutions that locate or expand their presence within a community. Although the tradition of cutting the ribbon has been a component of European weddings for centuries, the first ceremony to be held in the United States for the purpose of introducing a new business occurred in Union Parish, Louisiana in 1898 to celebrate the inauguration of new railroad service to that city.

Much like a ribbon that is cut while unwrapping a nicely packaged gift, the ribbon cutting ceremony for a new business builds anticipation with a promise of something new and exciting. A large ribbon stretched across the entryway of a new business signifies that the products or services available behind the ribbon are waiting to be offered to the community. Once the ribbon is removed, the goods or services offered by the business become available to prospective customers.

The ceremonial cutting of the ribbon as an introduction of a new business or retail outlet is important to the community because of the economic impact these firms provide to improve the overall quality of life of residents. Since 2014, small businesses have created two out of every three jobs in the United States. Because most people leave small towns and cities in search of job opportunities, those created by small businesses help to reverse this trend by allowing people to live and work in communities they call home.

Small businesses are a primary supporter of local economies. According to the Better Business Bureau, for every $100 spent at a local business, approximately $68 of those funds remain in the local economy as owners purchase most of the products and services to support their businesses from local vendors.

The positive impact of small businesses within the community extends beyond their contributions to the local economy. Owners of small businesses typically live in the communities they serve and take pride in contributing to the betterment of the towns and cities they call home. Since 2011, approximately 52% of small business owners have reported donating to charities with more than 90% of these donations being applied to local projects. Often, business owners participate in festivals and other community events by donating goods, services or volunteer labor.

Sales tax revenue generated by local businesses is an important source of funding for improvements to infrastructure and routine and emergency services within a community. Without the revenue created by local businesses, municipalities would be unable to provide basic services for residents. As communities increase their populations, it becomes even more important for local businesses to grow and prosper to support the expansion of these services.

Although the recruitment of new business is critical to the economic health of a community, support of existing businesses and retail outlets is an equally important consideration.  Existing businesses are the foundation of the community and are primarily responsible for the current level of services enjoyed by residents. In recognition of their many contributions to the community, the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce selects a Business of the Month and Distinguished Business of the Year to honor those who provide exceptional service within our community.

Like a wedding, a ribbon cutting is a ceremony that formalizes a relationship. It is a means to announce and celebrate a commitment between a business, a city and its residents. The cutting of the ribbon also symbolizes a fresh start, not only for the business, but equally important, for the economic prosperity of the community and its residents.