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You may have missed it, but the third week in May was National Small Business Week, as proclaimed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
One reason you may have missed it is that these businesses-dry cleaners, light manufacturers, carpenters, insurers and many more-were too busy doing business, and many in our region tend to take for granted this important economic sector.
But for people like us in the financial services industry who work closely with owners of Rochester-area businesses employing fewer than 100 workers, every week should be Small Business Week if we are truly to acknowledge and appreciate the importance of this vital cog in the American and regional economic engine.
The statistics continue to be staggering. The SBA reports there are more than 27 million small businesses in the United States, representing 99.7 percent of all employer firms and employing more than half of all private-sector employees. They pay 44 percent of the total U.S. private payroll and have created 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
We see the impact of what these businesses do every day in Rochester. According to the most recent U.S. census figures from 2009, there are 22,849 businesses in metro Rochester with up to 99 employees, ranking 53rd nationally. That number represents 97.4 percent of all businesses in the area and includes 16,682 microbusinesses with nine employees or fewer.
Even with these substantial numbers, it is rare to hear the voice of small-business owners as they concentrate on the daily tasks of running their operations, developing and selling products and services, and meeting the payroll that pays many of our own family members.
But many small-business owners in the service, manufacturing, engineering and construction, retail, wholesale and distribution, financial and food and beverage industries did talk in our most recent annual Upstate New York Business Leaders Survey. Those from Rochester joined with their counterparts in Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany to call out adverse economic conditions as their foremost challenge or concern, followed by governmental regulation, health care costs and taxation.
We applaud those public- and private-sector efforts, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new program coordinating six state agency resources, to help small businesses to start and grow in New York.
Likewise, we believe this sector of our economy is so important that earlier this year First Niagara created a special business unit with five team leaders and up to 40 bankers solely dedicated to serving small-business customers in our five geographic areas.
As with other financial institutions, we are on the front lines every day in working personally with these business owners so they have the resources to obtain technology, expand their product offerings, hire the right people and ultimately grow and contribute even more to our local economy.
And then as a community we can celebrate Small Business Week all 52 weeks of the year.
Lena Prohaska is Western New York Small Business team leader for First Niagara Bank, overseeing the Rochester and Buffalo markets.
7/27/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.