The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting a healthy and successful business environment for all our local businesses. We recognize that existing businesses play one of the most important roles within our community in creating new jobs, contributing to our tax base, and helping to form and shape our local identity through the products and services they provide. In recognition of Business Appreciation Month, we offer this column in support of local small businesses.
It is an impressive statistic: nearly 2/3 of all net new jobs are created by small businesses.
From the dedicated entrepreneur that starts a home-based business, but then doubles, triples or quadruples its size as it begins to grow, maybe moves into a brick-and-mortar location and hires one, two or three new employees; to those second-stage businesses where the business plan becomes a long-range marketing plan, and they begin to expand into new products and services that require more employees to support a management team; each job they create adds to our economy. Each job gives a resident a chance to achieve financial success and provide for their families through the wages they earn.
That alone is reason to value our local small businesses. But there is so much more.
Small businesses must innovate to provide the goods and services that we need or want to increase our quality of life. To survive, they become adept at finding new ways to do old things.
Small businesses have their finger on the pulse of the community — or even create that pulse, and their smaller size allows them more adaptability to changing economic climates when fast decision making is often needed and encouraged.
Small businesses support the local community through taxes they pay that stay within our community. Typically, small businesses use less in public resources than they pay in taxes, thereby reducing the overall tax burden of the residents that do use those public resources.
Small businesses are more often than not the first ones to support local causes and charities.
Almost every large business started from a small business. Often, small businesses complement the larger ones by supplying components or outsourcing services to large firms or acting as sales agents.
There is nothing easy about growing a business. And it is true that only about half of small businesses survive beyond the five-year mark, and only about a third make it through ten years.
To help support these local businesses, the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce started a Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program a few years ago. It is a fact that it is cheaper and more efficient in the long run to retain a business than to start a new one. The BRE program is dedicated to working with businesses one-on-one as a conduit for business resources, networking and advocacy.
Under the BRE program, the Chamber’s first role is to listen to the businesses and learn more about their plans, their needs, and their concerns. Although we will never profess to have all the answers, we will dig deep to understand and respond to their needs. Drawing upon the expertise of our numerous partner organizations such as CareerSource, SCORE, the Economic Development Authority for Citrus County and the County’s Economic Development Department, the Citrus County Building Alliance, Withlacoochee Technical College, the College of Central Florida, Nature Coast Manufacturers’ Association or the Marion Regional Manufacturer’s Association, the Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center and others, we can often match a business with a targeted resource to help them along their next step.
Should a business need to appear before the city or county planning department on a zoning or permitting issue, the Chamber can attend pre-application meetings with the business to advocate and help the business understand the requirements of the code.
The Chamber can also introduce potential business partners to one another, and we continue to share information or opportunities that we learn about.
On a legislative level, the Chamber plays a large role in monitoring legislative matters that may affect our businesses directly or indirectly, and may advocate for or against issues that impact the economic value and quality of life of our community and our businesses.
After all, the business is busy doing their business; the Chamber’s business is to stay aware and champion their efforts.
We welcome Citrus County businesses to contact us about BRE services at 352-795-3149 or Ardath@CitrusCountyChamber.com.
Ardath Prendergast is vice president of operations and the Business Retention and Expansion program with the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.