March 13, 2017

Report on small business tour shines light on economic challenges

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Small business isn’t the backbone of Washington’s economy. It’s more like the tibia.

That’s one of the take-aways from the 2017 Small Business Report, a just-published report from the AWB Institute highlighting last year’s 15-city small business tour led by staff from AWB and the AWB Institute.

Sometimes overlooked, the tibia bears most of the body’s weight and makes it possible for larger, more recognizable parts of the body to function. In the same way, small business supports Washington’s economy in all parts of the state, from urban to rural. Simply put, the economy wouldn’t be able stand without small business.

As the report notes, however, small-business owners are facing a number of challenges.

After visiting with hundreds of employers — from Colville to Bellevue, Pullman to Port Angeles — a few common themes emerged:

  • Business regulations in Washington state create an anti-competitive environment with other states because of higher financial burdens.
  • Washington's workplace regulatory environment is structured in a way that creates an adversarial relationship between the employee and employer.
  • Soft skills (also known as employability skills), along with impending retirements and an inadequately supplied workforce pipeline, must be addressed to ensure the next generation of workers is prepared to support existing and new small businesses.
  • The cost of health insurance continues to increase — while access to care and services is decreasing.

Small businesses account for 64 percent of net new jobs, according to The Brookings Institution. In Washington, one in five employees work in firms with 20 or fewer employees. That's a big impact and a crucial part of the economy — and the small communities where they're located.

This report is a snapshot of those small businesses and the impact that they have on the state’s economy.

The report also addresses issues including: the state minimum wage, unpredictability within the Washington workers’ compensation system, regulatory reform, health insurance and taxes.

Through working with stakeholders across the state, AWB will continue advocating for a regulatory and tax climate favorable for small businesses for the foreseeable future.

You can read the full report online. Contact Amy Anderson, director of the AWB Institute, to learn more about the report. Contact Jason Hagey, vice president of communications, for a hard-copy version of the report.