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False Alarm

The truth behind a reported drop in start-ups.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the April 1999 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

If you've read the news reports regarding a recent survey of business start-ups, you might think the small-business sky is falling. That's because according to a study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the number of businesses started in 1997 fell 4 percent, following a 14 percent drop in 1996. "But this is a marginal change," says William J. Dennis, a senior research fellow at NFIB. "There are still a lot of people out there starting businesses and looking for help."

Bruce D. Phillips, director of economic research at the SBA Office of Advocacy, agrees the statistics shouldn't be blown out of proportion. "You need six, seven or even eight [surveys] saying the same thing before there's cause for concern," he says.

What's really happening? According to Dennis, only about one-fourth of the respondents employed people other than themselves, while slightly less than half operated their businesses at least 40 hours per week.

In contrast to NFIB numbers, which primarily represent the self-employed, Phillips says SBA data on start-ups with employees showed record growth between 1993 and 1997. This, plus consumer confidence and strong growth in the economy, leaves Phillips satisfied that nothing unduly alarming is occurring.

Last Minute

  • In the House Committee on Small Business, chair Jim Talent (R-MO) established the Subcommittee on Rural Enterprises, Business Opportunity and Special Small Business Problems. On the agenda: distribution, transportation and attrition problems.
  • Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) introduced a bill (S.343) that would make health-care premiums paid by the self-employed fully deductible.
  • S.314 just passed the Senate Committee on Small Business and is awaiting action by the entire body. The bill would enable entrepreneurs to obtain loans under the SBA's 7(a) program for Y2K compliance repairs.

Contact Sources

National Federation of Independent Business, 600 Maryland Ave. S.W., #700, Washington, DC 20024

National Foundation for Women Business Owners, (301) 495-4975,

SBA Office of Advocacy,

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