2019 is an exuberant end to the decade. There has never been a better time to start or grow a small business in the current booming economy.
The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low with 110 months of consecutive positive job growth. Wages have increased 3.1 percent during the past 12 months. And 30.7 million small businesses are creating two out of every three net new jobs.
However, the 2010s had a humble beginning. Still reeling from the Great Recession, many small businesses were struggling and in survival mode. Job growth was flat, the unemployment rate was a staggering 9.6 percent, and there were only 26.8 million small businesses in the U.S.
Not only was hiring stagnant, but lending and spending were tight, too. Survival was the goal as small business owners felt the weight of keeping their doors open, keeping their staff employed and finding their way in post-recession economy. It was a difficult and stressful time to be a small business owner.
However, true to the entrepreneurial spirit and the American Dream, small businesses persevered.
During the past couple years in my role as regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, I’ve traveled around Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to meet small businesses and listen to their journeys. I’ve met businesses that reshaped what they do in order to move forward. I’ve met businesses that innovated with new cost-saving strategies for their customers. I’ve even met entrepreneurs who started their businesses during a time most would say they were crazy.
The common thread is they all adapted, they all took risks, and they all had a vision they focused on seeing through.
One story that comes to mind when I think of the perseverance of small businesses during the 2010s is Boswell Asphalt Paving Solutions Inc. in Meridian.
Like many small businesses in the construction industry, Melynda Boswell’s business was hit hard by the recession in 2008. Knowing that survival meant reinventing their business, they found a cost-saving solution for businesses and governments to maintain current roadways and parking lots rather than laying entirely new pavement for projects. This approach was so successful, the business was growing faster than they could keep up.
This led Melynda to the SBA Emerging Leaders program, a “mini MBA” that helps small businesses learn how to successfully manage growth. What started as a small family-owned business has grown into an established company operating in the Treasure Valley, Idaho, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.
I’m proud that SBA programs were able to support businesses like Boswell Asphalt Paving Solutions through tough times. But I’m even more impressed with the grit and innovation of entrepreneurs like the Boswell family.
When small businesses share their journeys with me, I am inspired and I am grateful. Our economy and our communities wouldn’t be what they are today without the perseverance of entrepreneurs.
As we close the decade, let’s take a moment to pause and celebrate the rise from recession to historic economic growth. And let’s take a moment to thank the small business owners who brought our country to this high point through their innovation, determination and perseverance.
Jeremy Field is the regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Pacific Northwest Region, which serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses with resources to start, grow, expand or recover.