Opinion: Why small businesses are vital to SC’s economy

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, providing employment opportunities and creating economic growth. They play a crucial role in driving South Carolina’s economy.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses make up roughly 99.4% of all businesses in the state. These businesses employ approximately 46.2% of the private-sector workforce, demonstrating the substantial reliance on small business labor.

Small businesses have consistently proven to be a catalyst for job creation. Based on the latest available data from the SBA, small businesses in South Carolina employed more than 1.09 million workers, accounting for 42.8% of all private-sector jobs. The success of these enterprises depends on the dedication and hard work of their labor force.

South Carolina’s labor force deserves our utmost appreciation, as its efforts sustain and drive small businesses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s unemployment rate has reached a low of 3.1% as of July 2023, indicating the resilience and strong work ethic of South Carolina’s labor force.

It is important to recognize the significant contributions of workers employed by small businesses. These individuals are the driving force behind product development, service delivery, and customer satisfaction.

Small businesses are more than just economic engines; they also nurture a sense of community and contribute to local development. These enterprises often reflect the unique qualities and characteristics of the regions in which they operate. They create job opportunities, fostering economic stability and improving the quality of life for residents in South Carolina’s diverse communities.

Furthermore, small businesses contribute to the state’s tax revenue, enabling local governments to fund essential services such as education, infrastructure, and public safety. Celebrating small businesses in September, the month we celebrate Labor Day, is an acknowledgment of their role as pillars of local economies and their contribution to the overall prosperity of South Carolina.

To further foster small business growth and support the labor force, it is essential for stakeholders to collaborate and create an enabling environment. Policymakers, community leaders, and consumers should prioritize initiatives that uplift and empower small businesses.

Government entities can provide resources, access to capital, and business development programs. Consumers can actively seek out and support local enterprises, recognizing that their choices directly impact the success of small businesses and the well-being of their workers.

As South Carolina celebrates Labor Day, let us remember to honor the labor and workers who contribute to the success of small businesses throughout the state. Their dedication, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit drive economic growth, foster community development, and create valuable employment opportunities.

Stephen Gilchrist is chairman of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce.

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