One of the problems with big businesses is that it takes so long for them to change to fit market conditions. The usual big business response to a a failing economy is to cut jobs. That response makes the economy that much worse so the big businesses fall in on each other like so many dominoes. Big businesses waste money on advertising programs that are out of date, pushing luxury items to a consumer base that is cutting corners to survive, again the delay time is the killer for big business. Instead of looking to the future, they are stuck 5 minutes in the past. Instead of leading the way in trends, they are held back by past performance and unrealistic sales goals. This stubborn adherence to the tombstones of past profit margins will be the end of them and really that is a shame considering how well big business can manage large numbers of trained, work-ready, people.
In light of the coming economic changes, I suggest that businesses also change the way they operate.
Heavy manufacturing could switch 1/2 of their workforce over to energy technologies. Let GM build wind turbines. Let Chrysler build solar energy plants. If there isn't a market for the machines, then set up power plants and sell the electricity. Require local power companies to buy percentages of the power at slightly over base cost so that companies can afford to keep building and employing people.
Big Box stores should be focusing on basic durable consumer goods like solar panels, food preservation systems, Do-It-Yourself kits, and support for these products. If I could get a Circuit City credit card to buy a computer or big screen TV--why can't I buy solar panels instead? Why not hydroponics equipment to grow food at my house?
Massive grocery stores can help buy converting all store roof tops into greenhouses. These stores waste a lot of energy in the form of excess heat, so this is a natural way to use the heat one more time.(This goes double for Google's Blade Farms which produce enough heat to supply thousands of homes as well as acres of greenhouses!) Food grown would only need to be transported to the produce department rather than halfway around the world.
Contractors can pull back from building new houses and offer more basic services such as retrofitting existing houses with white roofs and energy efficiency packages--90% of American homes need this service at a reasonable price. In many cases programs already exist to help seniors and low income people buy these improvements for their homes and even for their rental homes.
Landscaping companies can focus on lawn removal and food garden installation. Help people start gardens and offer reasonably priced consultation. The time of gouging for these services is over...just help people get started for a price that makes it affordable for the people who need it.
Auto dealers can help by renting some of their unwanted trucks by the hour, so people can use them to haul supplies for home projects. Most people can't buy a truck but would rent one if they were easier to get and affordable.
Cities and States can help by making more land accessible to grow food. What is the use of acres of grass in a park when people are going hungry? Most parks already have water systems installed, so open them up to groups of people for gardening and even small livestock projects. Currently community gardening programs are overwhelmed with waiting lists of a year or more in most cases. This proves we need to devote more City owned land for these programs.