St. Croix County Economic Development Corporation

Just like relatives who gather for a special occasion, businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Mature. Young. Practical. Innovative. Noisy. Quiet. And don’t forget about Small.

Small businesses are the fabric of America. From the bakery to the brewery, small businesses can be found on main street, in office buildings, or industrial parks. The impact of small business gained national attention back in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation to establish the inaugural National Small Business Week. Every president since followed Kennedy’s lead.

There is no clear definition of small business. Who else but the federal Small Business Administration as a source? The SBA uses numerical standards for every business sector in the U.S. so there isn’t a clear definition. The standards are based on the business’s employment count and average annual receipts. 

For transportation and warehousing, the maximum number of employees ranges from 500 to 1,500 along with a range of annual receipts from $7.5 million to $37.5 million. In manufacturing, the maximum number of employees ranges from 500 to 1,500. There are varying standards for businesses in the utilities sector and in wholesale trade, too. 

In short, the SBA uses wide latitude in defining small business.

National numbers

So what kind of impacts do small businesses make? There are an estimated 30.7 million of them in the U.S. or 99.9% of all businesses. Nearly 60 million people are employed by small businesses, representing 47.3% of all U.S. employees. The health care and social assistance sector boasts 8.83 million employees, making it the sector with the highest number for small business employment. 

Eight-two percent of all employees in the construction sector in the U.S. are employed by a small business. The employment trend continues in manufacturing, retail trade, and professional, scientific, and technical services.

State numbers

Wisconsin follows the U.S. patterns. Small businesses in the state totaled 452,594 in 2019, or 99.4& of all businesses. Around 1.3 million people are employed by small businesses, which represent 49.9% of all Wisconsin employees. 

To reinforce this, line up 10 people and five will be employed by a small business.

Small businesses are job creators. Around 30,108 net new jobs in 2019 were attributable to small businesses. In the U.S, 1.8 million net new jobs came from small businesses in 2019.

Minority-owned small businesses are increasingly important employers. There were 58,673 employees at minority-owned businesses in Wisconsin during 2019. In the U.S., minority-owned small businesses employed 8.7 million individuals over the same time period.

Small businesses also seek out export opportunities. Just over 280,000 U.S. small businesses exported products and almost 7,340 Wisconsin small businesses did the same.

Local numbers

The St. Croix Valley of Polk, St. Croix, and Pierce counties is teeming with small businesses. St. Croix had around 2,310 ‘employer establishments’ in 2018, according to the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts tool. Those businesses possessed over 31,360 employees. Quick Facts reports 1,125 employer establishments in Polk County, along with almost 13,680 employees. There were an estimated 779 employer establishments in Pierce back in 2018 which employed almost 7,200 people.

2021’s Small Business Week occurs May 2-8. Proclamations will be read by elected boards. Business league organizations may risk the pandemic and make a couple of in-person visits. Regardless, the small businesses will charge ahead. Here’s to small businesses and the big impacts they make.

Bill Rubin is the St. Croix Economic Development Center executive director.

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