From the Governor's Desk: A weekly column by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
This week as we gather to give thanks this holiday season, many across the Mountain State are also preparing for the hustle and bustle of the biggest shopping days of the year. Each year, squeezed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday reminds us, during the biggest shopping weekend of the holiday season, to support West Virginia's locally owned small businesses.

Small businesses represent a major portion of the economy in communities across West Virginia and across the country.


The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses employ an estimated 55 million of the country's private workforce. Small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employers nationally. In West Virginia small businesses represent 95.8 percent of all employers in the state and employ more than half of the state's private workforce.


Who are our local small businesses? They are independent bookstores down the street and the unique clothing boutiques downtown. They are the little diner around the corner that serves the best hot dogs and the restaurant that works with local growers to serve fresh produce in season.


West Virginia's small businesses are not limited to retail. They include companies in fields such as construction, energy, biotechnology and more.


Often these small businesses represent the blood, sweat and dreams of the entrepreneurs who started them. They are the bread and butter of the people who work there. They are our friends and our neighbors.


Last year, consumers spent $5.7 billion on Small Business Saturday supporting local, independent shops. According to the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, that's an increase of 3.6 percent over sales in 2012.


Spending with local merchants keeps more of our dollars at work close to home, in our neighborhood. Studies show shopping with local independents keeps more than three times as much revenue recirculating in local communities. These dollars return to the local economy in the form of profits, wages, purchasing and charitable giving.


The strength of our state economy begins with local businesses in our communities. That's one reason West Virginia operates programs that specifically address the needs of small businesses.


The West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WVSBDC) guides entrepreneurs through the nuts and bolts of launching their start-up businesses. Established businesses ready to grow and expand call on WVSBDC for practical advice and connections. The statewide network of business coaches includes specialists certified in areas such as access to capital, innovation/technology, exporting and federal contracts.


Scores of West Virginia communities work year round to revitalize their downtown districts and many plan to support their local small businesses with signs, giveaways and other events to add to special deals in stores during the weekend's celebration.


This Saturday, November 29, join me in supporting these dedicated businessmen and businesswomen. Let's make a big difference in our communities.