• WisBusiness

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why America admires small business


By Dan Danner
It’s conventional wisdom these days: Many people are frustrated, even angry, with government and other major sectors of society.

New research from the Pew Research Center confirms this thinking. In a recent survey, the group asked Americans whether they thought 13 different institutions and sectors had a positive or negative effect on the way things are going.

At the bottom of the list are large corporations (64 percent said negative), the federal government (65 percent), Congress (65 percent) and banks and financial institutions (69 percent negative).

So who’s on top? Small businesses.

Seventy-one percent of Americans say small businesses have a positive effect on the way things are going in this country. And when you look at the total picture of what small businesses do every day, it’s easy to understand why Americans feel the way they do.

Of course, small business owners start and build businesses, creating most of this country’s new jobs along the way, providing employment for millions of workers. And they support other businesses from which they buy goods and services, including, for example, the advertising that supports the media outlet where you’re reading this.

But small business owners are also frequently the lifeblood of the communities in which they live and work.

Consider these facts from National Federation of Independent Business’ Research Foundation:

* Ninety-one percent of small business owners contribute to their community through volunteering, in-kind contributions, and/or direct cash donations.

* The estimated average value of contributions is $6,600 per small employer, for a total of roughly $40 billion.

* Seventy-four percent volunteer the equivalent of 18 working days per year for community and charitable activities.

Those contributions of time and money support a wide variety of groups, including schools, civic organizations, community groups such as Lions and Rotary clubs, youth sports and athletic teams, and many other organizations that help to make up a community.

Why do they do it? The most important reason, they said, is “personal satisfaction and fulfillment.” The least important reason was because they expected any kind of direct business benefits.

Small business owners also said that creating a better business climate and making the community a better place to live were important reasons to contribute.

So here’s the Pew survey’s real message to government, policymakers and others: If you want to turn around the public’s negative view of you, you’d do best to promote the policies and practices that support small businesses. We’ll be a better country for it.

-- Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.

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