2019 is an exuberant end to the decade. There has never been a better time to start or grow a small business in the current booming economy.
The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low with 110 months of consecutive positive job growth. Wages have increased 3.1% during the past 12 months. And 30.7 million small businesses are creating two out of every three net new jobs.
However, the 2010s had a humble beginning. Still reeling from the Great Recession, many small businesses were still struggling and in survival mode. Job growth was flat, the unemployment rate was a staggering 9.6%, and there were only 26.8 million small businesses in the U.S.
Not only was hiring stagnant, but lending and spending were tight too. Survival was the goal as small business owners felt the weight of keeping their doors open, keeping their staff employed, and finding their way in post-recession economy. It was a difficult and stressful time to be a small business owner.
However, true to the entrepreneurial spirit and American dream, small businesses persevered.
During the past couple years in my role as regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, I’ve traveled around Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to meet small businesses and listen to their journeys. I’ve met businesses that reshaped what they do in order to move forward. I’ve met businesses who innovated with new cost-saving strategies for their customers. I’ve even met entrepreneurs who started their business during a time most would say they were crazy.
The common thread is they all adapted, they all took risks, and they all had a vision they focused on seeing through.
One local story that comes to mind when I think of the perseverance of small businesses during the 2010s is The Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. This second-generation family-owned business has been providing holidays gifts and treats since 1952, so they are experts in perseverance. The business endured historical flooding in 1967 and used a low-interest SBA disaster loan to help recover from the damages. And when Richardson Highway was rerouted in 1972, they used an SBA loan to build a new storefront on the new highway.
Since then, the Miller Family has twice doubled the store size, currently employs nearly 50 people, and continues their Letters from Santa program which has been going for 60 years strong.
I’m proud that SBA programs were able to support businesses like The Santa Claus House through tough times. But I’m even more impressed with the grit and innovation of entrepreneurs like the Miller Family.
When small businesses share their journeys with me, I am inspired and I am grateful. Our economy and our communities wouldn’t be what they are today without the perseverance of entrepreneurs.
As we close the decade, let’s take a moment to pause and celebrate the rise from recession to historic economic growth. And let’s take a moment to thank the small business owners who brought our country to this high point through their innovation, determination and perseverance.
Jeremy Field is the regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Pacific Northwest Region which serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses with resources to start, grow, expand or recover.