Help for small business owners

Georgia.org/small-business offers help for small business owners wishing to grow and for those looking to start a business.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State's office, we have 683,275 businesses in our state, give or take a few. That's one business for every 15 Georgia residents.

Most of the businesses in Georgia are considered small businesses. 97.4% of them employ fewer than 100 people. 94.2% employ under 50 people and 75.9% under 10 people.

To put more concrete numbers to the picture, of the 683,275 businesses in Georgia, 665,509 employ fewer than 100 people and 643,645 employ fewer than 50.

Over 500,000 businesses in the state employ under 10 people.

Only 17,765 Georgia businesses employ over 100 people. That's still a lot, of course, but it's easy to see the state would be a poorer place if not for the vast majority of businesses operating on a small scale.

It's easy for government agencies to underestimate the value of very small businesses to local economy. The impact of such businesses is even greater in rural areas like Catoosa and Walker County than in urban areas that can attract and accommodate corporations and large manufacturing entities from around the world.

If every business in our two local counties that employed fewer than 50 people were to shut down, our economy would crumble. Government would have to downsize, main streets would look like ghost towns, people would start to move away, real estate would lose value. A town or city thrives on successful small businesses. Even if every business that employed under 10 people were to shut down, the repercussions would be severe.

But for every business in the state, from the smallest to the largest, there are plenty of hoops to jump through in order to operate legally – licenses, tax IDs, sales and other taxes to collect and turn in, building codes, sign ordinances, sometimes rezoning. There are dozens of employment laws that must be observed. Government may like the taxes and jobs businesses provide, but that doesn't mean they're going to make your venture easy.

Then there are other issues: financing, advertising, product procurement or production, inventory control.

If it all seems overwhelming and hardly worth it, you'll be glad to know there is help – ironically, from the government.

According to various publications and trackers, Georgia is a good place for businesses, ranking high in many categories – best economy (#1/CNBC), best state for starting a business (#8/Womply), small business optimism (#5/Womply), greatest number of women-owned businesses (#5/American Express OPEN), and the list goes on.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development ranks among the best in the nation for the help it offers business owners and those just starting out.

If you have a business or are thinking about starting one, you may want to visit georgia.org/small-business. The web site is a cornucopia of help. Whether you're a newbie or looking to expand as far as international markets, whether you intend to work alone or eventually employ 100 people, this site offers help and links to resources to aid with every imaginable issue you’ll face in business.

If you're a student or someone who likes to self-educate, the site is a great place to learn. A thorough study with pen and notebook in hand would put anyone in a better business position no matter what their future plans.

To get a quick overview of what the site offers, start with the short (and entertaining) video, "Big Help for Small Business," on the home page. From there, the sky is the limit. Bookmark it: Georgia.org/small-business.