Weekly Columns

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy accounting for 65 percent of new jobs over the last 17 years. This vital economic component also employs about half of all private sector employees. That is true in Arkansas where these engines of our economy employ more than 475,000 workers and make up nearly 50 percent of the private sector workforce.

Arkansans are familiar with what it takes to build a business from the ground up and have great business models to learn from. As home to Fortune 500 companies – including the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart and the world’s largest processor of chicken, Tyson’s – that both started as a small business, residents of the Natural State understand the risks and rewards associated with small businesses.

A recent survey conducted by the Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack, a website that connects customers to local business services, of 6,000 small businesses nationwide, ranked Arkansas among the top two easiest states for starting a small business. Ratings given by Arkansas small business owners scored the state as having the third-healthiest small businesses nationwide, the second-fastest growing small businesses in the country, and the second-most optimistic businesses nationwide. “Small businesses looking for a place to hang a shingle or plant a flag cannot do much better than Arkansas,” Thumbtack co-founder Sander Daniels said. This is welcomed news to our state and something we can build on nationally. 

Small businesses across the country deserve an environment that promotes their growth and encourages hiring. As a former small business owner I recognize the difficulty these owners have to plan for future growth and investment. It is our job to make sure we provide an environment that helps these engines of economic growth. We want to make sure our small businesses have the resources they need to continue providing good, well-paying jobs for hardworking Americans. 

Our small business owners need predictability. They need their regulatory burdens reduced and the nonstop government mandates to end. As one Hot Springs small business owner commented in the Thumbtack survey “….the taxes as well as strict regulations make it tough running a small business with the economy so unstable at the moment.” 

We need market-based reforms that are focused on creating a healthier environment for businesses to hire and expand.  In March, Congress passed, with my support, the “American Jobs Act.” This legislation seeks to increase capital formation, spur the growth of startups and small businesses, and enable more small-scale businesses to enter public markets. 

We recently recognized the importance small businesses play in our economy and the contributions of Arkansans to this economic cornerstone during National Small Business Week. The Small Business Administration (SBA) recognized the work of Americans who excel in their work to help small businesses.

Arkansas is blessed to have innovators taking a lead on this front who are helping move America into the future and construct the groundwork for economic recovery. We need to continue pursuing policies that support the entrepreneurial spirit of these economic building blocks.