Economic hardship, business accumen, affect local enterprise
A look back at 2009 reveals a year of economic hardships. Carbon County's unemployment?reached 7.2 percent, and local sales tax revenues declined sharply. But in terms of new business,?the county as a whole saw no decline in the number of people wishing to start their own businesses.
However, as proof that striking out on one's own is difficult, over half of new business licenses issued in Price did not renew for 2010. According to Price City records, around 42 new businesses were issued licenses in 2009; 15 were classified as in-home operations. By 2010, 26 did not renew; seven of which were in-home.
"Too many people come up with an idea for a business, but have no idea of what it takes to run one. I have a lot of people who really aren't qualified and don't understand the rigors of running a business," said County Commissioner Mike Milovich, who is also the CEO of Eastern Utah Community Credit Union.
Within the county, according to a survey done by the Businesses Expansion and Retention program (BEAR), half of all businesses surveyed closed for personal reasons. The other half only indicated "other" as a response. Overall 124 closed businesses completed the survey in Carbon County during 2008 and 2009. According to Delynn Fielding, director of the BEAR program, data collected on business closures was gathered in an effort to encourage a series of grants and incentives for new business.
"The thing we found when looking at closed businesses was that more were closed in 2008 than in 2009," said Mr. Fielding. "(However), Emery County was a surprise to us, because it had a disproportionate number of closures, a lot more than Carbon."
Mr. Fielding attributed the higher number of businesses opening during 2009 to the fact that a higher proportion of the population was out of work and searching for income options. Some of the BEAR grant money that was spent was in an effort involving $1,034,480 which helped 26 local qualifying businesses to expand. To qualify, a business must be service or manufacturing- oriented. According to Fielding, 51 jobs have been created with around $794,000 being disbursed since 2008.
The BEAR grants are intended to help non-retail oriented businesses, but program data also suggests that there is a huge amount of retail leakage to the Salt Lake area. Most of the lost money comes from lost niche markets, such as men's clothing, or electronic sales. However, a few local businesses have taken advantage of the situation. One such business is The Athlete's Foot in Price, which has been open for nearly a year.
"The biggest reason I opened the store is because my son plays every sport. This is a huge sporting area and, as I got out to all these sporting events, I realized that no one wears a single shoe that they bought here in the county," said owner, Kevin Norried.
Norried, who also owns Kevin's Carpet and Price Laundry, said that during 2009 business was slow in the beginning of the year in both the shoe store and the carpet business, but was stable in the laundry business, which has actually grown slightly. In terms of challenges, Norried indicated that creating awareness was the toughest part of starting the new business. He now believes that this has been accomplished and he hopes that 2010 will bring stronger profits.
"We're kicking butt now. Our biggest thing was the learning curve and I'm hoping to double our business from last year's," said Norried.
For the most part, everyone interviewed believes that 2010 will be a better economic situation,?as compared to 2009. However, none predicted banner growth.
"I think 2010 is going to be a little better than 2009. A lot of the recession has bottomed out and now the question is how fast things will come back, but that depends on consumer confidence. It'll be a flat year, not as trying as 2009, but moderate," said Milovich, who added that he hopes that issues surrounding drilling near Nine Mile Canyon can be resolved.
As far as the energy-related business, Work Point Occupational Therapy in Price, which deals with a good deal of worker's compensation cases, indicated that things have been stable. They hope the industry might pick up over the next year.
"This next year we hope to see some new oil leases and oil prices should go up, which doesn't help the consumer, but it helps the companies (which leads to worker's compensation diagnosis)," said Lowell Morris, a physician's assistant who operates the facility.
Over the last three years, according to Price City records, around 120 new businesses were issued licenses or around 40 per year. The city does not keep an electronic record of how many non- renewals took place.
The city of Wellington issued a total of seven new licenses, with three in-home enterprises.
The cities of East Carbon and Helper, as well as the county, all had businesses open and close for 2009. However, due to a lack of relevant data, they have not been listed.