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Nation takes time to focus on small businesses

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The past week was a time of celebration for local and national small businesses. Entrepreneurs were honored for their efforts to create jobs and grow the economy during Small Business Week.

"From Thomas Edison's light bulb to Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, to Henry Ford's Model T, most of America's great inventions began with the innovative spirit of entrepreneurship," said President George W. Bush during a speech Thursday during the National Small Business Week Conference. "And today a new generation of entrepreneurs is leading a technological revolution that will transfer our lives in incredible ways."

By definition, a small business is a company with 500 employees or less. According to information from the Small Business Administration, there are an estimated 3.2 million small businesses in California. This includes more than 1.5 million people who are considered self-employed. These companies employ 6.9 million workers, nearly 53 percent of the state's total work force.

"Since its inception in 1953, SBA has helped well over 20 million Americans start, grow and expand their business, placing tens of billions of dollars in loans into the hands of entrepreneurs in all sectors of the economy," said George Chandler, SBA district director in San Diego.

And the SBA should keep busy in years to come. A survey by Capital One found that 61 percent of Americans dream of starting their own business. San Diego was recently ranked No. 22 on a list of business-friendly communities in the United States. The only other California region ranked higher than San Diego was the Riverside/San Bernardino area. The Inland Empire was ranked sixth.

It is probably no coincidence that these two regions are served by an SBA lender that was honored at ceremonies during National Business Week. CDC Small Business Finance of San Diego was selected as the 504 Loan Lender of the Year. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) was picked as the top small business lender in the nation.

"The essential role of financing in starting and developing a business cannot be overstated, and these banks are leaders in assisting small business in meeting their financial needs," said Hector Barreto, SBA Administrator. "Our partnership with lenders like Bank of America and CDC Small Business Finance is key to providing small businesses the financial resources they need to grow and strengthen the economy."

In 2004, CDC Small Business Finance made 586 SBA loans amounting to $358.7 million. Of course, ask any small business owner about their day-to-day activities and they will usually tell you it is a grind. As the old expression goes, being an entrepreneur is the worst possible job, but it sure beats working for somebody else.

"Small business owners and managers are caught in an environment where costs are escalating and margins are being squeezed," said Gregg Steinberg, president of International Profit Associates, the largest provider of management consulting services to small businesses in North America.

IPA surveyed small business owners and found that 64 percent said they are feeling the impact of rising energy costs. However, only 48 percent say that they are passing those costs along to their customers.

The commitment to serving their customers and communities has paid off for small businesses. Forty-seven percent of respondents to a survey by the Harris Poll said that they have a "great deal of confidence" in the work of entrepreneurs. That tied them with members of the military at the top of the confidence survey. Compare that with 16 percent for Congress, 12 percent for the press and 11 percent for law firms.

The San Diego region of the SBA will honor local business owners at ceremonies later this month. The 2005 Small Business Person of the Year is Avram Ninyo of Ninyo & Moore, a local environmental sciences consulting firm. Betty Hall and Canyon Creek Animal Hospital were selected at the local region's Women-Owned Small Business of the Year.


Chamberlin's financial analysis column appears each Monday in The Daily Transcript. Chamberlin also reports daily on stocks and local business on NBC 7/39 and on "Money In The Morning" on KOGO 600 AM.

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