Small business big business in Colorado

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Small businesses are only small in the sense they each don’t employ huge staffs. Collectively, though, small business remains big business in Colorado.

According to the latest small business profile for Colorado compiled by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, the more than 611,000 small businesses that operate in the state account for
99.5 percent of all businesses. Let me reiterate that last part. With the exception of a tiny fraction of very large companies, nearly all businesses in Colorado are small businesses.

There’s a caveat to SBA figures in that some of them are based on older statistics and survey results. Moreover, the federal agency defines businesses with fewer than 500 employees as small businesses. By most standards, particularly Grand Valley standards, that includes some pretty sizable operations.

Fortunately, the profile offers a breakdown by firm size and type, and the small businesses most people would consider small far outnumber companies with bigger staffs. In fact, nearly 481,000 small businesses in Colorado have no employees — among them sole proprietorships, professional practices and mom and pop-type firms.

Those small businesses in Colorado that do have employees account for a collective staff of 1.1 million, or about half the private workforce in the state.
By the way, small businesses created nearly 53,000 jobs in 2015. Of those, firms with fewer than 20 employees added almost 31,000 to payrolls.

Here’s yet another measure of the role of small businesses. Of the nearly 6,000 firms that exported from Colorado in 2015, 87.5 percent were small businesses that accounted for 30.6 percent of $7.4 billion worth of goods and services.

What kinds of businesses operate in Colorado? All kinds, of course. But the profile offers a breakdown by industry and employment for 2015. Health care and social assistance ranks among the largest sectors in employing nearly 293,000 people. Retail trades comes in second in employing almost 273,000 people with accommodations and food services a close third with a work force of nearly 271,000.

Regardless of the sector, small businesses account for most of the businesses. The proportion is largest at 92.8 percent in the agriculture, forestry and fishing and hunting sector and smallest at 13.4 percent among firms that manage companies and enterprises. Out of 19 industry sectors, small businesses employ more than half the work forces in 11 sectors.

All the numbers contained in the latest small business profile for Colorado make for interesting reading, especially for a business journalist who becomes a bit geeky over such subjects.

But the bigger picture that emerges couldn’t be more clear. Small business is big business in Colorado. It’s important to acknowledge that fact, particularly when it comes to fashioning laws and policies that affect businesses.