Op-ed: Empowering the voices of small business owners a crucial step for Lexington

By Gavin Smith
Posted 10/12/23

"As a small business owner and a newly elected member of the Lexington Town Council, I am keenly familiar with the vital role small businesses play in our local community."

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Op-ed: Empowering the voices of small business owners a crucial step for Lexington


As a small business owner and a newly elected member of the Lexington Town Council, I am keenly familiar with the vital role small businesses play in our local community.

Earlier this year, during my campaign and before being elected on May 2, I had the opportunity to host a small business roundtable where I heard directly from several dozen small business owners about their experience operating businesses in the Town of Lexington.

While nearly every business owner expressed their love for our Town and its people, many of their praises were followed by sharp criticisms. From feeling marginalized and voiceless to sharing frustrations with lack of communications and the recently imposed impact fees, takeaways from these criticisms were very clear and I knew that the Council, regardless of whether I was elected or not, must work to address these issues sooner rather than later. 

Most, if not all of us, have heard the saying that “small businesses are the backbone of our local community.” Although the phrase has arguably become cliche at this point, the reality is, the statement couldn’t prove to be more true for the Town of Lexington. 

Small businesses not only contribute to the desirability of calling our Town home, but also substantially contribute to the services our residents value deeply.

In fact, for example, in fiscal year 2023, the Town of Lexington budgeted $6.5 million for business license revenue – a figure which accounts for nearly 50% of our Town’s General Fund. I point this out for one simple reason: also in Fiscal Year 2023, $6.8 million was allocated to fund our Town’s Police Department.

In other words, without a thriving small business ecosystem and the revenue generated by these businesses and their patrons, funding essential services such as the police department – which receives its funding from our general fund – would quickly become a challenge. This is simply one reason, among many others, that we must take the concerns of our local business owners to heart and put forward meaningful solutions to make even better the local business environment in our Town.

Shortly after I was elected, I made it one of my first missions to work with Town staff, particularly our Town’s Economic Developer, Jack Stuart, and our Town’s Director of Planning, Building, and Technology, John Hanson, to formulate a proposal for standing up a Small Business Advisory Committee.

My first proposal, which I introduced at our July 24, 2023, Council Work Session, was met with quite a bit of warranted, constructive criticism from my fellow members of Council. This criticism, for which I am very grateful to have received and learned a lot from, helped strengthen our proposal and will ultimately help make what we on Council refer to as “Team Lexington” even stronger. 

After two Work Sessions and working together with each of my colleagues on Council to nail down many of the specifics for the Committee, on Monday, October 2, Council unanimously passed an Ordinance officially establishing this Committee with a charter of strengthening the relationship between businesses and the Town, fostering open dialogue and collaboration, and improving the environment to do business in our community. 

With this mission in mind, the Town of Lexington’s Small Business Advisory committee will serve as a bridge, facilitating regular communication between small business owners and the Town’s staff and members of Council. It will provide a platform for business owners to voice their concerns, ideas, and suggestions directly to our Town’s decision-makers. By actively engaging with the small business community, we can gain valuable insights into their needs and challenges and can work collaboratively to find effective solutions.

The Committee will be led by nine local business owners – all of whom will be selected after an extensive application and vetting process. Three members of the Committee must reside in the Town, whereas six members may own a business in Town but reside outside the Town’s limits. Details for this process and applying to be on the Committee will be made available and shared publicly in the coming weeks.

In addition to the business owners who will lead this Committee, the Lexington Chamber of Commerce will also have a designee to the Committee. The Committee will be staffed by our Town’s Economic Developer, Jack Stuart, and I will have the opportunity to serve as the Council Liaison to the Committee as well.

Creating a welcoming and supportive business environment is crucial not only for the success of our small businesses but also for the overall prosperity of Lexington. When small businesses thrive, they create jobs, boost economic growth, and enhance the vibrancy of our community. 

With this step and thanks to the unanimous support of my colleagues on the Town Council, we have sent a clear message that the Town of Lexington is not only open for business – but is committed to fostering an unwavering and supportive environment for every small business owner who so significantly contributes to making the Town of Lexington the greatest place to live, learn, worship, and raise a family.

Gavin Smith has served on Lexington Town Council since May 2023.


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