Are you a small business owner in the healthcare industry? Are you an ethnic minority or woman looking to start a business? If so, Florida might be an ideal location for your endeavor.
Read the following Q&A with Keith Bowers, regional director of Florida’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) located in Tallahassee. Bowers discusses helpful programs designed for women- and minority-owned businesses and explains why Florida’s aging population means opportunities for healthcare practices.
Q: What are the greatest advantages to opening and growing a small business in Florida?
A: The state has enjoyed a steady population growth until last year, when the population growth was stagnant. Florida has a business-friendly climate with geographic attributes that lends itself to importing and exporting.
Q: What are some of the major costs of owning a small business in the state?
A: Labor is the largest cost or expense in owning and operating a business. At SBDC, we do industry profiles to identify small business owners’ biggest expenses. We’ve found that businesses have to dedicate about 40 percent of their revenues to labor-related expenses, particularly payroll and benefits.
Q: How are women and minority-owned businesses faring in Florida?
A: The Department of Economic Opportunity has a program called the State Small Business Credit Initiative. This program has access to $97 million in funds that they are trying to get into the hands of small businesses. The Black Business Investment Fund, run out of Orlando, has funds that are exclusively marked for minorities trying to start small businesses and need access to capital. State agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation are race-neutral but still have a small business program through which they try to attract minorities, including ethnic minorities and women.
Q: What does the state’s aging population mean for healthcare providers?
A: We can expect to see a combination of new healthcare technology and more healthcare facilities. More urgent care centers are starting to pop up. A lot of health concerns that were problems in the past are now manageable with preventive medicine. With so many older adults in Florida, we see a mixture of things like problems with vision and high blood pressure. So physicians are starting to specialize. We’re starting to see groups of doctors band together to form coalitions, allowing individuals to see a number of specialists in one facility.
Q: What are small business owners’ top concerns?
A: The No. 1 concern is access to capital. All that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is trying to do to entice banks will help small business owners. For example, the Obama Administration has made an effort to put more funds toward the SBA through the Start Up America program, and in turn, the SBA has come out into the districts of Florida and tried to get participating lenders to take a look at their programs and use those programs to spur lending for small businesses.
Q: What is the state of small business hiring in Florida?
A: Most small business owners are at a point where they have to do more with less. Therefore, there is not a trend in hiring and creating jobs. Consumer spending is flat, and without an increase in revenue, most small business owners are curtailing spending.
On the positive side, Florida’s manufacturing and export activity have increased. We’re also seeing an increase in export lending, which is leading to job creation. We’re seeing more energy put into ports and export opportunities. That’s one of the growing trends that will be beneficial to job creation by increasing sales.