We can’t think of a better way to celebrate National Small Business Week than to provide a report on the state of entrepreneurship in our region.
The good news is that a spirit of innovation continues to spark new startups, with much activity coming from business plan competitions and new workspaces like Impact Hub, the SLO HotHouse and others that foster collaboration on new technology.
Craft beers and spirits are joining with traditional services to advance the hospitality business in the region.
And finally, there is a growing network of funding sources for startups and small businesses – from angel investors, crowd funding and cash prizes at business plan competitions.
But small businesses face some big challenges, too. California’s march toward a $15 minimum wage has dramatically raised the revenue hurdle that companies must meet before they add employees.
That means many small companies are relying on part-time workers, contractors and freelance help. The challenge is too great for many restaurants which are not able to afford servers and are closing up shop or shifting to a quick service model.
Health insurance costs have risen to a point where small firms aren’t able to offer benefits and even owners are moving over to Covered California. Many talented young workers are looking for a job at a larger corporation because of the availability of benefits and flexible schedules.
Slow growth politics, red tape and the difficulty in getting building permits make it harder for companies to grow within our geographic footprint.
Fortunately, there are services available to help. One of them is the Small Business Development Center, operated in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties by the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County. The program won the Small Business Development Center International Excellence Award at the May 17 Small Business Week Awards by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s LA District Office. Another winner was Jerry Knotts, CEO of the California Coast Venture Forum, who took home honors as the SBA Financial Services Champion of the Year.
Bowman and Knotts are passionate about supporting small business and entrepreneurship in the region. Fighting the fight for small business is a good fight. Keep fighting.
OIL SPILL’S LONG HANGOVER
Two years after a Plains All American pipeline breach spilled more than 140,000 gallons of oil onto land and into the ocean near Refugio Beach, a natural disaster has been replaced with a fiscal and legal mess.
Dozens of companies and property owners harmed by the spill have yet to have their day in court. Venoco, which needed two Plains pipelines to move oil to market from Platform Holly, has filed for bankruptcy and will abandon its project. Santa Barbara County is wondering how it will replace some $7 million a year in tax revenue from Venoco and related operations as it faces a big shortfall. And there’s no plan in sight for reopening the two shut pipelines to move oil from other projects to Kern County and beyond.
What Plains has accomplished is to advance the environmental movement’s argument that it’s time to move beyond the fossil fuel economy. For a region where oil and gas provides needed tax income and some of the few remaining middle class jobs that don’t require a college degree, that’s a sorry legacy.