Saturday, June 4, 2011

Factory Tours and Facts

When politicians and pundits talk about small businesses and job creation, many of them seem to rely on Chamber of Commerce created public relations photo opportunities and televised factory tours for their information rather than finding out the facts. Here are some facts that most politicians and pundits ignore in their fantasy world of U.S. businesses.

The Small Business Administration defines a small business as “one with fewer than 500 employees.” Here is the short version of what the SBA says is important about small business to the U.S. economy.

  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
  • Employ just over half of all private sector employees.
  • Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
  • Create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Hire 40 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers).
  • Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.

Want to astound your friends? Ask them, “Who produces 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms?” The answer: US small businesses do. Furthermore, you can add, according to the SBA, “These patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited.” You’ll get “wow” and puzzled looks. But I digress.

The National Association of Self Employed adds that of those businesses employing less than 500 people

  • 77.6% are non-employers, or self-employed.
  • 17.3% employee 11 to 19 people.
  • 2% employ more than 20 folks.

Some perspective is in order. Go to the sports page and think about Pro Football for a minute. I am not talking about the sports teams themselves, but about the financial impact the NFL wields on franchise towns like Green Bay, which is not a major market. Business News Daily says an “NFL Lockout Could Sack Small Businesses.” According to the Daily, “The livelihoods of thousands of small business owners and their employees are at stake in each of the NFL’s 32 cities. Restaurants, bars, team apparel stores and other small businesses located within walking distance of NFL stadiums are bracing themselves for a potential lockout and the ramifications it may have.” Would you like to talk about a seasonal business?

So let’s talk about Washington political rhetoric. It continues to suggest that the slow recovery is because banks will not lend to credit worthy borrowers. According to the non-partisan National Federation of Independent Business, that is not the case. The NFIB reports that the economy generated a lot of jobs by making bad loans and they are gone now. Community banks across the country have plenty of money to lend, but “the pipeline of good applicants collapsed in the recession.”

Remember the football lockout I mentioned? The NFIB says that on the job side “it is going to take a rebound in consumer spending, particularly in the service sector to make a significant dent in the number of unemployed. The manufacturing sector is doing very well, but it does not create many jobs.” Factory tours and the Chamber are good for television, not so much for business facts. Facts are boring.

Article first published as Factory Tours and Facts on Blogcritics.

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