I know that I pick on these guys relentlessly but every once in a while they produce some good information. I’m talking about the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) or in this case the NFIB Research Foundation.
The Foundation released a new study, Small Business, Credit Access, and a Lingering Recession. William J. Dennis Jr., Senior Research Fellow and author of the report, concludes:
The many fruitless attempts by policymakers to understand and improve the credit market for small businesses are due to the fact that they have thus far failed to adequately address the root causes of the economic crisis – lost confidence and uncertainty, and the housing crisis. The real estate situation has been the elephant in the room since the onset of the Great Recession and remains a substantial variable in the current plight of small business. Washington has responded by doing just enough to be dangerous, but far too little to have any long-term positive impact. Until a workable solution is implemented, we can only expect glacial economic improvement from the small-business sector. It is not a good time to be optimistic, but small-business owners by nature seem to be.
I’ve been saying for some time that if we solve the foreclosure problem in the country and allow underwater property owners to refinance or reduce their mortgage principals, we will get the economy rolling by improving real estate values, invigorating the housing construction industry and putting more money in homeowners’ pockets.
But diving into the provided results of this study there is a very interesting finding related to another hot controversy in Washington—what is the top problem holding back small business growth? Is it regulations or lack of consumer spending?
Here is what the NFIB report found regarding the issue of greatest financial concern to small business owners–“uncertainty” (33%), “poor sales” (23%) and “inability to obtain credit” (15%).
The report further broke down the responses for those citing “uncertainty” and found that 54% of these were related to the weak economy (“will sales strengthen or slide? and by how much? What will happen to their input costs?”). Another 23% of the “uncertainty” respondents cited policy/political conditions—federal and state taxes and budgets, regulations, healthcare reform, etc. Another 23% of the “uncertainty” respondents referenced both economic and policy/political conditions.
So that you don’t have to do the math, here are the numbers if we’re just interested in the regulations vs. lack of consumer demand issue.
Of all the responses to the question of what is the greatest financial concern for small business owners, somewhere between 23% and 47% were most concerned about poor sales now and in the future. We can’t know for sure from reading the report because the author didn’t give us enough detail about some of the “uncertainty” responses.
But we do know from the information given that regulations are well down on the small business owners’ list of concerns. The report barely mentions regulations as a response and lumps these with non-regulation responses in the “policy/political uncertainty” category that only accounted for 7.59% of the total responses to the question.
The U.S. Senate will be addressing three anti-regulations bills soon and you can expect a lot of heated rhetoric about “job killing” regulations. Clearly based on this NFIB study, the Senate will be wasting precious time and energy that would be better spent on solving our housing crisis.