Creating Jobs from the Ground Up

The below is an editorial by the Sun News that ran in the Myrtle Beach area newspaper on July 05, 2011


Creating Jobs from the Ground Up

Frank Knapp has a message for those who want to create jobs and bolster our state’s economy: Look to the little guys.

Knapp, the president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, is helping put together an initiative that would create a mini business trade group tailored specifically for the microenterprises in our state. According to the statistics presented by Knappand the national Association for Enterprise Opportunity, 87 percent of the businesses in our state qualify as microbusinesses, enterprises with five or fewer employees.

The goal of Knapp and other business leaders is to pool resources to help those businesses succeed and to create new ones. But wait, isn’t that already function of the state Commerce Department? Sadly, not quite. Knapp expressed frustration this week that the state department and regional development organizations spend their time chasing after big game instead of seeking to foster the smaller enterprises that already exists.

“It’s not as sexy as Boeing or Amazon,” he said, “but the reality is that it’s our small businesses that create the most jobs in our state and our country.” Indeed, the AEO estimates that if one in three microbusinesses could employ just one more worker, the U.S. would be at full employment.

Knapp’s complaint about a lack of attention to the little guys hits home. While we’ve been impressed so far with the efforts and goals of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.’s new CEO, Brad Lofton, it’s hard to imagine him stopping in at the local tanning salon that employs three people, just to see how he can help their business grow. But then, with only 24 hours in his day and so many resources to devote, we can’t say that would be the best use of his time anyway.

And that’s exactly why the trade association proposed by Knapp and others makes sense. Similar state groups already exist in North Carolina and Georgia, and founding one in South Carolina would provide another handhold for entrepreneurs looking to climb toward success. North Carolina’s program has created nearly 3,000 jobs since its inception in 1989, through technical assistance, planning help and small loans.

One of the biggest ways these groups help the smallest businesses is by linking them with banks or by offering access to lending pools of their own. It’s often hard for entrepreneurs or small businesses that already exist to find and secure smaller loans of $5,000 or $10,000. Combining this sort of seed money with technical assistance and business experience can make the difference between a business fizzling and flourishing.

Knapp and company began their statewide push May 5 and plan to have a strategic plan in the works by September. A legislative study committee on the need to help microenterprises is also in the works, with plans to report some time next year. There’s still a long path ahead, however. One hurdle avoided just this week was Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of the funding for the state’s small business development centers, one of the partners in this effort. The House overrode that decision – though local Reps. Kevin Ryan of Georgetown and Thad Viers of Myrtle Beach disagreed.

The group is chasing a worthy goal – making it be easier to start and run a small business – and we wish them all success.

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