US Small Businesses Cautiously Optimistic About Economy

March 19,2015

NEW YORK— The U.S. Small Business Administration classifies a business with less than 500 employees as small. Right now, there are 23 million small businesses across the United States and together they account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales.

Mark Zwerdling started Generation Z, a youth sports marketing company, seven years ago. He has three employees and lists cash flow, responsibility to employees, and being nimble as keys to success.

“I think people are looking to do business with small companies, again I hate using the world nimble, but I think that’s something businesses are looking for from some of their vendors is being nimble. So, I think people are very excited about where the economy is and where opportunities lie and I think that’s kind of a unique thing," said Zwerdling.

At Snowdonia, a Welsh-style restaurant in Queens, New York, owner Carrie Spiller says she is now barely making a profit two years after opening. In addition to the high cost of electricity, Spiller was surprised by the extent government involvement in her business.

"Basically, I think it was taxes that was my biggest lesson. Employee tax, you have to pay unemployment, sales tax, naturally. Just all these little elements that go into what your monthly responsibility is and it, especially in the beginning, is overwhelming," she said.

The small business owners VOA spoke with cite health care costs as one of the biggest expenses and risks. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to offer health insurance, but to attract and keep employees - it’s basically a necessity.

David Rosini, who owns an engineering company, says providing health care is almost the biggest and most frustrating issue he faces.

“We cover most of their health care expenses and since I’ve been doing this for 10 years, every single year health care goes up 20 to 25 percent," he said. "And every year we shop around to try and get the best coverage for the most reasonable rates and it’s just something that we cannot control."

A recent economic forecast from Bank of America/CFI Group says small businesses are doing well. But according to Sue Lonergan, the bank’s small business executive, there is caution with the optimism.

“Small businesses are still hesitant to spend and expand, and that includes hiring and they’re very nervous about the fact that there could be turnover because there is potentially some wage inflation on the forefront," she said.

The survey also showed the American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in millenials, those who were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of them are looking forward to owning their own small businesses and are very optimistic about the economy.

Chuck Forcucci and Daniela Schrier contributed to this report