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May 2005
Celebrating Small Businesses in Charlotte
By John Paul Galles

Once upon a time, way back when, you knew the inhabitants of a town by driving down Main Street and reading their names across storefronts windows and door plaques. John Cougar Mellencamp sang about that experience in his “Small Town” America. If you grew up in Charlotte, you knew about Ivey’s Department Store, the Crowell-Berryhill Store, the Liddell-McNinch House, the Ratcliffe Flower Shop, the Latta Arcade, the Oscar J. Thies Automobile Building, the Mayfair Hotel, the Carolina Theater and “The Square.” Mostly, towns were made up of local people with local enterprises employing local people. They still are.

The Charlotte region has changed dramatically since the early 20th century. The influx of people from other parts of the country has brought greater diversity and new influence from other cultures and ethnicities. While we celebrate and appreciate that growth, it is tougher and tougher to learn about, know and understand this burgeoning new city-region, its businesses, resources and opportunities. That is our mission here at Greater Charlotte Biz! We want to help you learn about the abundance of great businesses, their leaders and the substantial resources for business growth in this region.

While Wachovia and Bank of America, Goodrich, Duke Energy, Lance and other large companies are extremely important to our community, there are tens of thousands of small to mid-sized businesses that deserve attention and credit for the jobs they are creating and the wealth they are building.

According to the SBA, there were approximately 650,000 small businesses in North Carolina in 2003. Only about 176,000 of those entities actually employed people.  Non-employer businesses made up nearly 475,000 entities. Inside that number were about 254,000 self-employed individuals.  About 85,000 or 34% were Women-owned; nearly 39,900 were Black-owned; 7,300 were Hispanic-owned firms; 9,100 were Asian-owned; and 7,100 were American Indian-owned businesses.

When the above numbers are updated for 2005, it is likely these figures will change radically. Women and minority-owned enterprises seem to be flourishing in every corner of this region.

Those small businesses employed over 1,601,230 workers, which was 46.7 percent of the non-farm private workforce and had a net gain in employment of 67,175. Firms with fewer than 20 employees had a net gain of 39,287 employees.  SBA research identifies small business financing sources as typically being commercial bank lenders and local bank services. Small business proprietors’ income grew from $16.7 billion in 2002 to $18.1 billion in 2003. Clearly, small business is a vibrant and active element of our community.

We find comfort in visiting the same stores and businesses that treat us well and care for us and make us feel welcome. We have our own gathering places, but we also look for ways to learn more about others that we may want to meet for business purposes or opportunities. We hope that you look to Greater Charlotte Biz as a valuable source of information and background on businesses, their leaders and business resources helping you with your business needs.

We want to help you learn about these businesses – from the small to medium-sized homegrown businesses run by their owners and passed through generations, to the large publicly owned entities that use many local companies to create, build, service, distribute or sell their products. These business owners are excellent examples of hard-working, civic-minded responsible citizens within our towns. They are all important contributors to our community that employ people and create wealth. We should celebrate small businesses in our region as much or more than ever before. We hope you enjoy their stories.

John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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