Let the market decide business’ success | Editorial

The prospect of a Subway food franchise locating in Friday Harbor has sparked a vigorous debate over the impact such an enterprise would have on island culture.

As the Friday Harbor Town Council learned when it updated its sign ordinance, you can’t keep a business from locating at a site if it meets applicable laws. To not allow a business to locate here for no other reason than we don’t like that kind of business ownership model is discriminatory. But this can be legislated: A community can influence what a business looks like; Leavenworth is an example. A community can prevent Golden Arches from being erected by writing a sign ordinance. A community can control litter commonly associated with a certain business by adopting an anti-litter law.

Whether a business succeeds depends on whether the business has a product or service that the community needs or wants and is willing to support. A local Subway franchise will fail or succeed on that alone. And in our free enterprise system, all businesses deserve an opportunity to try to succeed.

Those who say they oppose franchises in Friday Harbor should know this: A franchise is a business which contracts to sell another business’ product or service, operating under the franchisor’s trade name in exchange for a fee. There are several franchises in Friday Harbor: CarQuest, Coldwell Banker, NAPA, Radio Shack, Sotheby’s and Windermere. Franchises are local businesses, in that they are locally owned and operated. They employ local people and pay wages that are spent locally. They pay local taxes.

We agree that if restaurants common to the mainland located on Spring Street, the uniqueness of Friday Harbor would diminish. But we don’t believe the market would support that.

We have laws that regulate where businesses can locate, how big their signs can be. Whether a type of business survives depends on the quality of its product or service, how it is managed, and the goodwill it establishes in the community.

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