Business meeting

Since 1963, America has recognized the week of May 12 through May 16 as National Small Business Week. Each year, the President issues a proclamation announcing Small Business Week, which is aimed at honoring the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

While large corporations get a lot of the attention, its small businesses that are the vital to the economy with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reporting that there are more than 23 million small businesses nationwide, making up 54 percent of all U.S. sales.

The SBA also stresses that small businesses have provided 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all net new jobs since the 1970s. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, small businesses employ more than 55 million workers.

In Arizona, the impact of small businesses is even larger. Small businesses represent 97.1 percent of all employers and employ 44.8 percent of the private-sector labor force. Small businesses are crucial to the local economy, with the Census results showing there are more than 495,227 small businesses in Arizona.

A small business, according to the SBA, is defined as any business with fewer than 500 employees. However, according to the Census, most small businesses have a lot fewer than 500 employees. Most of America’s small businesses range between 20 and 499 employees.

Dave Perry, president and CEO of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, said of the 404-member roster they have, 60 percent of the businesses have five employees or less.

“Across our membership, there are dozens of small business people assuming all the risks of running businesses, and hoping to reap the rewards. It’s not easy. They don’t have the cushion of large-scale capitalization. If they don’t sell their goods and services, they can’t pay people, and scramble to meet their obligations.”

Despite small businesses being vital to the local and national economy, employers struggle year after to year to keep the doors open. According to a Cox Business Survey, 50 percent of the 601 employers who responded said they are very concerned about the country’s economic uncertainty. The results also showed that nearly 42 percent of those surveyed have considered closing their doors for good.

Lea Marquez Peterson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the last several years have been particularly tough for the small-business community.

“Sales slumped and employees were laid off due to the economic depression,” she said. “Today, we have seen a slight improvement in many industries. However, there are still several uphill battles faced by businesses. First and foremost is access to capital. Businesses are slowly recovering and banks and credit unions continue to have high risk aversion.”

In Tucson, Peterson said they are seeing an increase in micro-lending, which assists smaller businesses with revenues between $3 million and $10 million.

As the economy continues to improve, Peterson said they are also seeing more businesses hiring again, with the state’s recent unemployment numbers being the lowest since 2009. Hiring at Arizona’s small firms increased .16 percent in April, according to the Small Business Index from Intuit.

“This is positive news for our economy, but also provides a challenge as our employers seek qualified workers,” Peterson said.

Peterson pointed out that there are several programs aimed at assisting employers with local issues, including the Pima County Workforce Investment Board.

Miguel Ortega, a pro-business activist in Tucson, said, “Sometimes I don’t know what impacts small businesses more: acts of God or City Hall acting like God. Small, locally owned businesses shouldn’t be riding in the back of the station wagon like little kids. They should be given a seat at the front.”

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