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Confidence growing among small businesses, entrepreneurs

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This past week was a celebration of America's unsung economic heroes, small businesses. National Small Business Week focuses on everything from home-based businesses to growing companies with less than 500 employees.

And the celebration continues in San Diego this week when the Chamber of Commerce and regional office of the Small Business Association hand out awards to the best of local entrepreneurs.

"Small businesses create most of the nation's new jobs, employ half of the nation's private sector work force, and provide half of the nation's nonfarm, private real gross domestic product, as well as a significant share of innovations," according to the 2009 edition of the annual report presented to President Obama.

However, like big business, smaller companies have not avoided the impact of the recent economic slowdown.

"The Great Recession was not kind to small businesses in America. Small and medium-sized businesses suffered a disproportionate share of the job losses and many still have difficulty accessing credit from some lenders. Fortunately, things are beginning to look up," said economist James Marple of TD Economics.

The group released a new study Friday that says 87 percent of small business owners are optimistic that their business would perform at least the same or better in 2010 compared to the previous year, and 36 percent expect to see their business grow this year.

"Economic growth over the long-term is driven primarily by individuals taking risks and making sacrifices in order to bring innovative ideas to market," adds Marple, who believes that by the end of 2011 the United States could employ over six million more people than it does today.

Employers -- especially small businesses -- are, not surprisingly, cautious about putting out the "help wanted" sign and increasing their payrolls until they are more confident the economy is on better footing.

A new survey by Wells Fargo finds that 53 percent of small business owners plan to maintain their current staffing levels and 81 percent said they are worried that revenues or sales won't be sufficient to justify adding more employees.

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