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Small Businesses Keep The US – And Utah – Going

Photo of Dugins West in Park City.
Wikimedia Commons
Dugins West is one of Park City's many locally-owned businesses.

There’s Black Friday, then there’s Small Business Saturday. 

Despite falling on consecutive days, the two quasi-holidays seem to be championing conflicting goals. One is generally associated with a mad dash to big box, corporate stores, and the other to support local businesses. 

But for all the attention Black Friday gets, it doesn’t reflect what’s actually going on in the U.S. economy quite like Small Business Saturday. 

That’s because the country is overwhelmingly made up of small businesses. Firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89% of all companies in 2016. 

In Utah, over 99% of companies are classified as small businesses and employ almost half of the state’s total workforce. 

Ray Keating, chief economist at the Virginia-based Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, said Utah consistently ranks among the top business climates in the country for companies of all sizes. But while larger companies can sometimes take advantage of higher tax and regulatory burdens in states like California and New York, Keating said small firms have a more level playing field in Utah, which keeps those hurdles low.

That’s good news for the state, because not only do Americans overwhelmingly trust small businesses over big ones, they are key to tackling a rapidly changing world, Keating said. 

“In study after study, the driving force behind innovation, behind job creation, is very much small, entrepreneurial firms,” Keating said. 

The same is true for the Utah-based Kuru Footwear, which developed a patented heel design that founder Bret Rasmussen said helps its customers with foot pain. Rasmussen said the now 35-employee company he started with his father has largely been able to insulate itself from corporate competition by finding a niche in the market. 

“We found that a lot of our customers will have tried shoes from some of these bigger companies,” he said. “The shoes didn’t solve their need. And then they discover Kuru and they become rabid fans.” 

Rasmussen said the company didn’t start out tackling foot pain, but was able to capitalize on what it later found to be an untapped market.

That, Keating said, is the beauty of a small business.

“The next great thing that none of us know is coming, some entrepreneur is working on right now. That's going to change things,” Keating said. “So you want an environment where those people say, yeah, this is where I'm going to set up shop and invest.”

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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