Thanksgiving, Small Business and Free Enterprise

By at 21 November, 2016, 5:11 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

Americans usually mark the beginning of Thanksgiving – or a national day of thanks – to a three-day gathering between the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. It was Abraham Lincoln in 1863 who proclaimed an official Thanksgiving Day.

America's bounty on Thanksgiving is made possible by small business. Whether it's family farms, grocery stores, bakeries or other stores and businesses that we count on for a delicious meal, small businesses dominate all these sectors that enable us to "count our blessings" with family and friends.

America’s bounty on Thanksgiving is made possible by small businesses. Whether it’s family farms, grocery stores, bakeries, wine shops, or other businesses that we count on for a delicious meal, small firms dominate all these sectors, which help us to “count our blessings” with family and friends around the dinner table.

As people across the nation settle in with family and friends on this Thanksgiving Day in 2016, heads will be bowed and thanks given for seemingly countless things, from the smallest to the most significant of blessings. And of course, there will be food to celebrate the holiday.

It is perhaps the wide assortment of culinary delights on our respective tables that should lead us to add free enterprise to the long list of things for which Americans should be thankful for. Consider the roles that entrepreneurs, small businesses, large firms and so many employees play in putting together the Thanksgiving meal.

Small Business Plays a Big Role in Thanksgiving 

For example, grocery stores play a central role in shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. Not only do such stores offer food and ingredients from across the nation and around the world, but most are small businesses. For example, according to Census Bureau Data (2014 latest), among grocery stores in the U.S., 87 percent are small employers with less than 20 workers.

Baked goods, of course, are a big deal on Thanksgiving. And if you’re not baking yourself, consider that among retail bakeries, 88 percent have less than 20 employees, and 71 percent have less than 10 workers.

As for turkey, often the key offering on the Thanksgiving menu, the top state for turkey production is Minnesota, followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri and Virginia. Also, since turkey is poultry, it’s worth noting that among poultry processing employer firms, 47 percent have less than 20 workers, and 69 percent less than 100 employees.

And according to Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, turkey farming is about small, family businesses:

“Minnesota is the #1 turkey producing and processing state in the U.S., with 450 family farmers raising approximately 44 million – 46 million turkeys annually. These farmers – many of whom are 3rd, 4th and even 5th generation turkey farmers – are passionate about raising wholesome and quality turkey for consumers.”

For good measure, international trade plays a part, as the U.S. imported $19.3 million worth of live turkeys from Canada in 2015. But the U.S. also happens to be a big exporter of turkeys, along with many other Thanksgiving menu items, like potatoes and corn.

There’s a great deal to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, and that very much includes a free enterprise system populated by entrepreneurs, businesses and workers all focused on improving and delivering quality goods and services to American consumers.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Keating’s latest book published by SBE Council is titled Unleashing Small Business Through IP:  The Role of Intellectual Property in Driving Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment and it is available free on SBE Council’s website here.


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