More than 70 percent of the Tucson Metro Chamber’s membership are companies with fewer than 50 employees. While the U.S. Small Business Administration classifies small businesses as those with 500 or fewer employees, the Chamber recognizes that many of our local businesses have far fewer employees working from the ground up with only a handful of employees, wearing many hats for the overall success of that business. In fact, firms with less than 100 employees in Arizona make up the largest share of small business employment. Practically speaking, in Tucson, a gross majority of businesses are technically classified as small businesses per the government classifications.
Small businesses are very important to the Tucson Metro Chamber. To gauge the most critical needs of this sector, the Chamber recently held a small business roundtable, inviting members and non-members alike, to discuss small business challenges. This crowd of 50 were largely made up of business owners with 15 or fewer employees.
The group was asked, “What are the largest challenges facing your business?” Their answers were not much different than those from a similar event we previously held with our larger, corporate members. The two most popular answers provided related to resources and business climate. Resources was an expected answer. Resources are needed for training, infrastructure, product development and employee retention, to name a few.
The challenge identified for business climate related to our local processes, procedures and overall perceived community priorities. Frustrations were expressed regarding the notion that local business issues are considered partisan issues. Comments included the lack of a clear vision by elected officials to align in support of economically impactful priorities, such as investing in public infrastructure, streamlining government processes and improving customer service in areas that touch business operations like development services, the county health department, water and building departments.
Business owners are looking for opportunities to engage with local officials and hear how leadership is working to create a pro-business environment. They recognize that the more successful their business becomes the more resources are generated in the community through higher sales and property taxes.
The Tucson Metro Chamber remains committed to advocating on behalf of businesses, to provide opportunities to engage local officials and meet candidates, to deliver problem-solving solutions for business challenges and strengthen the voice of business to champion a stronger community.
The success of business directly correlates with the success of a community. The economic impact small businesses are making in a community dominated by government, and government contract companies, cannot be overlooked. According to the Small Business Administration, Arizona small businesses employed more than 44 percent of the private workforce, and companies with fewer than 100 employees have the largest share of small business employment. Additionally, 88 percent of Arizona exporters are small firms; they generated 26 percent of Arizona’s $19.6 billion in total known exports. We must recognize the big role small businesses play in our community and we must remember to support them.
Collectively, the voice of small business is an extremely powerful tool. Get to know Southern Arizona’s small businesses, look for the small businesses near your neighborhood and place of employment. Learn how a local small business can save you money, make you more efficient, or provide a valuable service you may not have known you needed, because then you can focus your limited time and resources on growing your own business. Remember to shop your local small businesses whenever practical and encourage others to do so. This cyclical relationship is important.
The Chamber wants to help your small business succeed. We know that small businesses help grow our community, so let’s help grow theirs.
Amber Smith is the Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO.