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Report shows job growth for small businesses

BY AARON WALKER | SEPTEMBER 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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A study by the University of Northern Iowa released last week shows more than 100,000 jobs were created by small businesses in the state. 

The UNI study took data from 91 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Small-business owners answered a survey that provided information about sales trends, job growth, capital acquired, and technology use.

“We’re seeing about 50,000 new full-time jobs from 2013 and huge growth in the number of subcontract jobs,” said Paul Kinghorn, the director of UNI’s Regional Business Center and Entrepreneurship Outreach.

Businesses sacrifice paying employees more by not guaranteeing a permanent job. Businesses in Iowa created 70,000 contracted full-time jobs created last year.

“[It’s] kind of telling about the future of jobs. People are doing short-term assignments over a lifetime and learning new skills,” Kinghorn said.

While more people are getting jobs, female business owners have been struggling. 

“[The] women’s piece is most concerning because we have differing numbers than what show nationally,”  Sarah Bey, the study’s program manager said.

Two years ago, Iowa was rated the worst state for women business owners in a report commissioned by American Express.

“That is clearly deserving of a lot of attention at the state level,” Bey said. “You’ll begin to see more effort and more attention given to how we can more effectively affect the number of women [business owners] for the good.”

For the state as a whole, tech-centered jobs saw the largest growth. 

“One in five of all new jobs were due to technology,” Bey said. “It shows a great influx of why they’re hiring and what they’re doing with it.”

Technology jobs range from social networking to fiber optics.

“There’s more of an emphasis on social media marketing than in the past,” said Paul Heath, the regional director of the Iowa Small Business Development Center, which is located in Coralville.

College graduates and the University of Iowa play a major role in local small businesses.

“Small businesses are more likely to employ the young,” Heath said. “Many people get their first jobs out of college with a small business.”

In Johnson County, companies employing 10 to 99 people saw growth in 2013, while startups and companies with two to nine employees fell. This was atypical of the state as a whole.

Local business owners attribute this to the UI’s presence. Downtown locations provide a constant flow of new patrons.

“The one thing about Iowa City is that it’s relatively insulated from the overall economy because of the university,” said Clyde Guillaume, owner of Swankie Frankie.

The Airliner, which has been around since 1944, has seen steady business in recent years.

“The downtown Iowa City district is a more mature kind of market; there are mature businesses and older established businesses compared to say, a bio-tech company,” owner Jim Rinella said.

While 70 percent of business owners anticipated growth in 2014, but like the owner of Swankie Frankie, not everyone attributes this to an improving economy.

“Am I optimistic about the economy overall? No, but I am optimistic about where we’re at because of the university,” Guillaume said.


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