Small Business Study: An Improving Economy, But Financing Is a Challenge

A midyear report by the National Small Business Association suggests the outlook for many businesses is getting better, but big problems, like those with lending, persist.

When the economy is bad, small businesses usually feel the pain, and the Great Recession’s negative impact on many of them ranged from pronounced to excruciating.

But according to the National Small Business Association’s “2013 Mid-Year Economic Report,” the tide is turning. The survey results offer some of the best economic outlook numbers seen in five years. But that’s not to say there aren’t some areas where there’s room for improvement.

Some highlights from the report:

The positive takeaway: The good news from the NSBA report comes near the top, with a significant jump in small-business owners saying that the economy is better off than it was a year earlier—from 23 percent in December 2012 to 35 percent in July. The association says that’s unusual: “There typically is a depression in confidence and economic outlook during summer months and increases in both indicators at the beginning of a new year.” Five years out, the results are more striking: 40 percent of respondents said the economy is better off than it was five years ago, a double-digit jump from the December survey. While still slightly lower than the “worse off” number (45 percent), it’s still the most optimistic result for that question in five years.

There are too many important issues facing our nation for this continued failure from policymakers.

Stress points: Financing is one area that continues to be a challenge for small businesses. In December 2012, 73 percent of the business owners surveyed said they were able to obtain adequate financing; in July, that number fell to 65 percent. Other issues that surfaced in the survey include the continued confusion around healthcare (which is common across the board). And according to NSBA, business owners are looking for a lot less gridlock in Congress. “A unique and very disappointing finding from our survey: The No. 1 issue small business wants our elected officials to address isn’t even a policy imperative, it’s for them to end the partisan gridlock and work together,” NSBA Chairman David Ickert said in a press release. “There are too many important issues facing our nation for this continued failure from policymakers.”

Constructive feedback: In a response to the report, Forbes contributor and small-business evangelist Ty Kilsel argues that the report’s results reveal a serious issue with lending that needs to be addressed, either by the private sector or through the Small Business Administration. “Although there is no simple answer to the financing needs of Main Street, if we’re really serious about creating jobs, maybe it’s time we actually helped some of the water get to the end of the row,” he writes.

The full report is available on the NSBA website [PDF].

(Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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