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Small business advocate discusses challenges facing Ohio
In describing the impact of small business on Ohio, association executive Roger Geiger points out the state is home to roughly 700,000 self-employed individuals and that 97 percent of the state’s 260,000 incorporated businesses employ 100 or fewer people.
“When you think of small business, it really is the economic engine,” said Geiger, the Ohio executive for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Ohio Farm Bureau has partnered with NFIB on a number of issues in the past aimed at improving the business climate in the state. During a recent edition of Town Hall Ohio, Geiger said the two groups still share many common interests.He said the economic downturn in recent years was one of the most trying times he’s seen for small businesses in Ohio.
“Small businesses are generally the first to take the hit but they’re also the very first community to come back,” Geiger said of the recession. “I think we’re seeing positive signs here in Ohio.”
However, a rebound on Wall Street does not necessarily indicate a true recovery point. Rather, Geiger points to the startup of new businesses as the leading indicator that the economic situation has turned around.
“Many of those folks who have found themselves displaced because of the shedding of jobs by major corporations aren’t going back to those jobs. They’re starting a small bookkeeping office in the spare bedroom, they’re starting a small welding shop in the garage. That’s the number I haven’t seen yet to say we’ve totally made the recovery,” he said.
Geiger noted that attributes that help small businesses bounce back quickly are that they’re not bogged down by internal bureaucracy and can better target niche opportunities.
Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher tied that to an agricultural trend that shows growth in the number of small farms.
“A small farm, small acreage can supply a product, a niche service from a small operation and do very well,” he said.
“The true opportunity of a small business person is providing what’s needed in the marketplace.”
Another issue that farms often share with many other small businesses is the difficulty of passing the operation from one generation to the next.
“It’s the third generation that has the most difficult time succeeding,” Geiger said.
And when it comes to a number of other issues facing small businesses, such as immigration reform, taxes or regulation,
Fisher said that citizens have to take responsibility for fixing the problems.
“Our organizations and our members need to be engaged and participate for all of us to achieve good government,” he said.
Geiger pointed to a large a number of Ohio lawmakers who are business people and farmers as a positive sign.
“Who in our local community can step up with good business sense, good business background, come to Columbus and make a difference on behalf of the entire business community,” he said.