Editorial: Support women-owned businesses


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The Iowa Economic Development Authority, whose mission is to strengthen economic and community vitality and make Iowa the choice for people and businesses, is partnering with Ascent, a Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit organization focusing on creating an environment that will better support the viability of women-owned businesses in an effort to facilitate the creation and growth of women-owned businesses in Iowa.

This new and unique public-private partnership is a step in the right direction for the state. Iowa currently ranks dead last in the United States in terms of the economic clout of its women-owned businesses.

As stated in a press release by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, there will be an emphasis on working with women business owners in order to better understand their needs. The goal is to build a strong network and ultimately increase the revenue and employment of Iowa’s women-owned businesses.

This partnership is necessary to reverse a disturbing trend in Iowa. According to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report released in March by American Express OPEN, Iowa ranks last in the nation in terms of the relative strength of the state’s female-owned firms. Between 1997 and 2013, Iowa was the only state in the nation to see the revenues of women-owned businesses contract.

Employment at such firms fell by 22.5 percent over the same period.

These contractions have occurred even as women-owned businesses have flourished nationwide.

When the Center for Women’s Business Research measured the economic effect of America’s 8 million majority women-owned businesses for the first time a few years ago, they found that women in the United States are more than holding their own in the business world.

According to the center’s study, women-owned businesses have an economic impact of nearly $3 trillion. These businesses produce employment for more than 23 million people in the United States — which translates to 16 percent of all jobs in the United States in 2008.

Remember, these jobs serve not only to sustain the workers themselves but also their families. They contribute to the economic growth of the workers’ communities, and the astounding $2.86 trillion generated by women-owned businesses reveals the magnitude of the impact of such businesses on our overall economy.

According to the American Express OPEN report, in 1997, the state of Iowa had 57,527 women-owned firms, employing 71,724 people. Now, those numbers are roughly inversed; Iowa currently has an estimated 71,000 women-owned businesses, employing only 57,000 people. There have been only a little over 13,500 such businesses created in Iowa over the last 16 years, and the number of jobs in those firms has fallen substantially.

When the effect that women-owned firms have on our economy is so substantial, it is extremely wise to encourage the growth and sustenance of such businesses.

Imagine what would happen if America had no women-owned businesses generating almost $3 trillion. There would be 23 million more people in this country with no jobs and that many more livelihoods struggling with their finances.

U.S. Census data show that from 1997-2002, women-owned businesses were growing at twice the rate of all other groups. Despite America’s current economic hardships, women-owned businesses are still continuing to grow at a steady pace.

The partnership between Iowa Economic Development Authority and Ascent is a venture that will undoubtedly benefit the state of Iowa and its citizens. Women-owned businesses are absolutely vital to our nation’s economic growth, and we need to support them in Iowa.

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