What do the community and businesses need/want from each other?

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What communities and businesses want and/or need from each other is a fundamental question of supply and demand, as well as a question of corporate responsibility to the community it purportedly serves.

To suggest that a symbiotic relationship should exist between business and public would be a little extreme, given the wide gulf between “wants” and “needs” in today’s societies. In a symbiotic relationship, both parties to an arrangement profit; they both get something positive out of the interaction. The relationship between business and public, however, greatly exceeds that of a strictly symbiotic relationship. Companies seek to fill needs, but they also strive to meet wants, such as in widely-purchased consumer products like smart phones that provide for activities that have little or nothing to do with communications, such as video games and various “apps” dedicated to astronomy, geometry, etc. Communications is a “need”; video games are a “want.” Business supplies both, and profits from both.

What business and the public want/need from each other is a basic function of “supply and demand” economics. The public needs certain essentials, and businesses will emerge to fill those needs. Where the relationship becomes murky is in the realm of “wants” as opposed to “needs.” We need food, clothing, means of transportation, medical care, and so on. We want a fancier car, a television, types of food that our bodies do not need but that our tastes crave, video games, and even illegal drugs. For each of these, a supplier emerges. The consumer receives the goods and/or services he or she wants while the business reaps financial dividends. The murkiness arises when creative entrepreneurs convince consumers that they, the consumers, “need” something that they really do not need. This was the case with smart phones, without which humanity managed to succeed for many decades. We went from using the stars and paper maps to navigate to sophisticated electronic systems that derive data and imagery from an enormously expensive network of satellites (the Global Positioning System). What the public receives is a state-of-the-art way of navigating between locations quickly and efficiently. What the businesses that designed, built and operate the satellite system received is a tremendous amount of money (it should be noted that the GPS network was funded by the government/taxpayer for use by the military and gradually shared with commercial users).

It may take as little as an individual fashion designer displaying his wares in a magazine advertisement or on a stage for consumer demand to flourish. Trends rarely reflect needs as opposed to wants, but the latter has a peculiar way of becoming the former. In either case, the consumer receives the product it desires; the business receives the revenue it requires to sustain itself. This is the basic relationship between business and public.

Beyond the basics of supply-and-demand economics is the relationship between business and public that requires a more complicated series of equations and negotiations. Before a major corporation relocates or sets up a new operation in a new location, it seeks to negotiate with local governments for favorable arrangements, such as tax breaks in exchange for the increased tax revenue government will receive from the jobs the corporation will provide. These tax breaks may not be popular with the public. The most notorious such arrangements often involve construction of a new sports venue, sometimes in a dilapidated section of a town or city. Taxpayers are frequently expected or asked to help fund the project in exchange for promises of long-term economic benefits to the community. While there are examples of the construction of such venues facilitating economic growth by ancillary industries (e.g., food and beverage business that profit from increased consumer activity associated with the new venue), government-private sector arrangements like these are controversial and tend to generate intense feelings of anger by a public already heavily-taxed and resentful of wealthy business owners using taxpayer-financed arrangements.

In short, what business and the public want or need from each other can be complicated by the vast distinction between wants and needs. Suppliers will invariably emerge to fill demand. How many of those “demands” are legitimate expressions of “need,” however, is a whole other question.

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In general, what these two want from one another is mutual economic benefit.  Businesses want communities to provide them with workers and with demand for the things the businesses produce.  Without these things, businesses cannot survive.  Communities want businesses to provide jobs and to provide high quality goods and services for relatively low prices.

While these are the main things that each wants from the other, there other things that are wanted.  Businesses want communities to refrain from passing laws that tend to hurt the businesses.  Some businesses even want subsidies from the places where they locate.  Communities, on the other hand, want businesses to act in ways that are ethical and do not harm the community.  They also tend to want things like donations from businesses to local causes.


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