Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 10, 2013

Oblinger: Small business drives our economy


---- — One business story worth emphasizing time and again is the important role small business plays in our economic success.

Small business is more important than ever, given the changing dynamics of our economic landscape.

The days of a large-scale company coming in to bolster a town's economy with hundreds of jobs are a thing of the past.

Today, economic growth is much more likely to spark from a young entrepreneur finding a passion to launch his or her own business, or a corporate retiree finding a second career.

In most states, businesses with up to 100 employees generate at least 30 percent of the total economic activity. In rural and less-populated areas like northern Michigan, the percentage is even greater.

Those businesses generate more than $46 billion annually in Michigan, according to the research website, Infographics.

I remember well back in 2005 when the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Council wanted to create a program to highlight, emphasize and encourage our region's small business community.

Born was the Chamber's annual Small Business Celebration. Since its inception, we've turned the spotlight on dozens of small businesses in the five-county area. We've honored a local bank, an eye clinic, small manufacturers and others with our annual Small Business of the Year Award.

But the SBC is much more than a congratulatory honor. Participating businesses learn about themselves and each other through a comprehensive evaluation process that gives them an opportunity to ask questions, share information about what they do best and learn what they could do better. Even if they don't win, our SBC Top 10 go through a program that makes their operations stronger in the end.

The goal of the SBC is similar to that of several Chamber leadership development programs. It's to create fun, rewarding and engaging efforts to promote and support our area's unique business mix combined with resources to help it grow and prosper.

Whether it's our CEO Roundtable or Mark of Excellence initiatives, or our signature Leadership Grand Traverse program now 25 years strong, the Chamber offers several initiatives to help our community's business base both small and large. The Chamber is also expanding its financing resources to help small businesses secure other sources of capital.

Small business needs your help as well. It not only needs your patronage, but your support as it grapples with complicated tax codes, increasingly complex health care regulations, growing competition on the Internet, workforce education challenges and more.

It's not going to get any easier to start, maintain and grow a small business — but it's part of our economy that will continue to gain in importance as time marches on.

Celebrate with us through the Small Business Celebration, let SCORE help if you're ready to nurture your entrepreneurial spirit and don't stop driving for success if you're leading a small business today.

We depend on you.

Laura Oblinger is the chief operating officer for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.