Small Businesses Drive Wisconsin, U.S. Economy

By Brittany Rockwell
WMC Director of Small Business Advocacy

This column was published in the 2017 edition of Wisconsin Business Voice. 

Wisconsin has seen an incredible turnaround over the past few years. The state’s unemployment rate of 3.1 percent – just a tenth of a point away from the historic low of three percent – is proof positive of that fact.

As it is pointed out on other pages in this magazine, the statistics of Wisconsin’s economy are quite impressive, and we must thank Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature for their hard work in turning this state around.

The reforms put in place have created an environment that is richly successful for businesses of all sizes.

Businesses, both large and small, are reaping the benefits of the change that has taken place in Wisconsin. While many of the larger businesses get the lion’s share of the news cycle, let’s take a moment to focus on the impact of small businesses in Wisconsin.

Just over half of the private workforce in Wisconsin is employed by small businesses. That is about 1.2 million people, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2017 Wisconsin Small Business Profile. The SBA’s report used the most up-to-date government statistics and demographics available to track growth and provide a snapshot of how small business ranks in each state.

Wisconsin’s Small Business Profile breaks down employment numbers by industry. It dissects valuable data and explains how many individuals are employed in the private sector and of those employees, how many are working for small businesses. Finally, it breaks down the percentage of small business employment in each individual industry.

It is not surprising that the industry that has the largest small business employment in the state is manufacturing. According to the data, 443,111 people work in manufacturing in Wisconsin, and 205,806 of them – 46 percent – work for small businesses. Manufacturing is followed closely by health care and social assistance with total private employment equaling 388,018. Forty-three percent of that industry is employed by a small business.

While manufacturing and health care employ the highest number of employees, three other industries seem to be run almost completely by small businesses with more than 80 percent of employment coming from small businesses. Those industries include: construction, real estate and agriculture/forestry/fishing and hunting.

These industries play an important role in Wisconsin and so does small business. In the rural regions of the state, small business employment represents anywhere from 77 percent to 100 percent of the total employment in a county. This is crucial in a state like Wisconsin that struggles to evenly distribute employment opportunities. It is safe to assume that without small business, the rural counties in Wisconsin would be in a calamitous situation.

Small businesses are creating more than 30,000 net jobs annually in Wisconsin. Not only are jobs being created by small businesses and the unemployment rate is decreasing, but Wisconsin’s economy grew at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in 2016 which is higher than the national average of 1.2 percent. As the business climate in Wisconsin continues to improve so will our small businesses.

Wisconsin is a significantly better place because of the positive impact of small business. We strive every day to make it better through the efforts of WMC’s Small Business Committee (SBC). The SBC stands up for entrepreneurs and small businesses all across Wisconsin, and we will continue our work to improve the state’s business climate.

See the full issue of Wisconsin Business Voice.