2019 was an exuberant end to the decade. There has never been a better time to start or grow a small business in the current booming economy.
The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low with 110 months of consecutive positive job growth. Wages have increased 3.1% during the past 12 months. And 30.7 million small businesses are creating two out of every three net new jobs.
However, the 2010s had a humble beginning. Still reeling from the Great Recession, many small businesses were still struggling and in survival mode. Job growth was flat, the unemployment rate was a staggering 9.6%, and there were only 26.8 million small businesses in the U.S.
Not only was hiring stagnant, but lending and spending were tight too. Survival was the goal as small business owners felt the weight of keeping their doors open, keeping their staff employed, and finding their way in the post-Recession economy. It was a difficult and stressful time to be a small business owner.
However, true to the entrepreneurial spirit and American dream, small businesses persevered.
During the past couple years in my role as regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, I've traveled around Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to meet small businesses and listen to their journeys. I've met businesses that reshaped what they do in order to move forward. I've met businesses who innovated with new cost-saving strategies for their customers. I've even met entrepreneurs who started their business during a time most would say they were crazy.
The common thread is they all adapted, they all took risks, and they all had a vision they focused on seeing through.
One local story that comes to mind when I think of the perseverance of small businesses during the 2010s is the Astoria Crest Motel in Astoria, Oregon. The property overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River, where in 1805, Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery took in the very same majestic view as they journeyed to their future winter camp in nearby Fort Clatsop. Originally known as the Crest Motel when it first opened its doors in 1952, the property had gradually fallen into a state of disrepair and was at risk of being shuttered in 2014.
However, Air Force veteran and entrepreneur Marshall Doyle and his wife, Patricia, along with business partner Don West and his wife, Wendy, saw this as an opportunity to save a local treasure and strengthen the community.
Thanks to SBA financing, the expertise of the four owners, and a generous amount of "sweat equity," the Astoria Crest Motel is enjoying a resurgence as more and more travelers are discovering the hidden treasures of the Oregon Coast.
Today, the motel serves as a dedicated Lewis and Clark interpretive viewpoint and regularly enjoys full occupancy in the summer as well as becoming a popular meeting space for local clubs and organizations in the community. The business has grown its workforce from two employees to 15 as well as tripling its annual revenues since its rebranding.
I'm proud that SBA programs were able to support businesses like the Astoria Crest Motel through tough times. But I'm even more impressed with the grit and innovation of entrepreneurs like the Doyles and Wests.
When small businesses share their journeys with me, I am inspired, and I am grateful. Our economy and our communities wouldn't be what they are today without the perseverance of entrepreneurs.
As we close the decade, let's take a moment to pause and celebrate the rise from recession to historic economic growth. And let's take a moment to thank the small business owners who brought our country to this high point through their innovation, determination and perseverance.
Jeremy Field is the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Pacific Northwest Region which serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses with resources to start, grow, expand or recover.
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