All Americans strive for a secure and stable livelihood that they can depend upon to take care of themselves and their families.

Solving national issues may be beyond our individual control, but each of us can effect positive change in our local communities by supporting locally-owned small businesses. It is a fact that 97 percent of all Utah businesses are considered small. Utah's 260,000 small firms employ more than 520,000 people, and account for almost all new jobs created statewide. By backing our locally-owned small businesses, you support the thousands of jobs they create and the families they sustain. Small, locally-owned businesses are the bridge to a more sustainable economy. They are the backbone of our democracy, and the future solution to our most pressing economic problems.

Small firms make an enormous and positive contribution to the quality of life in our cities and towns. Locally-owned businesses create good jobs and boost the local tax base, which in turn improves our schools, our parks, and our quality of life. Most importantly, local businesses are invested in their neighborhoods. Behind any civic activity that contributes to the common well-being of your community, you will likely find a local entrepreneur giving their time and money in support of that cause. The assistance provided by volunteers who care about their community could not be replaced by any amount of government assistance or tax money. Local business owners are the unsung heroes of society. They are the leaders, the ambitious, hard-working people who have ideas and act upon them. They are true American heroes.

Big box chain stores have done an excellent job convincing people that they are the least expensive, but often they are not. Take the challenge and do some price checking of your own to determine whether the large chain stores beat the prices and quality of service that your local small businesses provide. Where else are you going to find the in-depth product knowledge and one-on-one customer service that small retailers provide? When you give your dollars to a large chain store, that money leaves your community. If you spend your money at a locally-owned business, then that money is more likely to be spent again and again in the local economy, generating many dollars' worth of employment. That's how "localism" can change the way our entire economy works. Every time you buy local and buy small business you are saving a job and helping to support your neighbors, friends, and families.

Support your local small business is not just a catchy phrase, but is a way we can all continue to bolster our local economies. We need to choose a future that will enrich and sustain future generations. Local businesses that employ and empower ordinary people are the cornerstone of a future economy that can sustain us. Local business people are local leaders; they are people with initiative and ambition, and they invest their resources in local organizations. We all need to celebrate the great diversity that our small businesses provide this holiday season. Small business is the shining light that continues to brighten our road to economic prosperity. Try it today...go visit a local small business owner and thank them for being such a critical part of your community!

(Betsy Markey serves as SBA's regional administrator for Region VIII, overseeing all agency programs and services in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah.)