Eugene loves its small businesses. The smallest businesses ooze the most character, as any walk through Saturday Market will exhibit. All of us get to feel like we’re walking into somebody’s dream. Pride of place extends naturally to business space. Blue sky and brass tacks meet right here.
Whether it’s our weather, our location, or our reputation, people want to come here. Some choose Eugene as the perfect launch pad for their business dream. Others come here hoping to find a job, only to find that starting a business is actually easier.
Unfortunately, many of these dreams end after the first commercial lease has expired. Convinced that their efforts will turn to gold, the economics of very-small business can often be a rude awakening. Awoken from a beautiful dream, these failed entrepreneurs can remain quite grumpy.
Fortunately for many newcomers, real estate has been almost as safe an investment as small retail has been risky. Those who launch a business from their own building succeed more often for at least three reasons. 1. They immediately think longer term than people hanging a shingle from a rented storefront. 2. Improvements to their building may pinch their cash floor, but they pad the balance sheet. 3. They start their venture with a diversified investment portfolio.
City and county government agencies can’t discriminate between owner-occupied storefronts and leased spaces, but a private consortium of business investors could. Entrepreneurs would compete for private funding from local businesspeople. Each proposal would include a business plan, an initial term and rate for a loan, and a local property to be purchased and used as collateral.
When the businesses fail, the consortium would receive the property. When they succeed, they’d get a healthy return. But in every case, we’d have a more stable pool of small businesses, constantly refreshing Eugene’s fabled character. Habitat for Humanity started in Georgia. Domiciles for Dreamers could get its start right here.