By Spencer Loveless, Owner of Dustless Technologies and Merit3D
Just over two years ago, on March 6, 2020, Governor Gary Herbert declared a State of Emergency due to COVID-19.
Following the declaration, I was overwhelmed with uncertainty as I tried to wrap my mind around how the emerging pandemic and its restrictions might impact or even decimate my current small business, Dustless Technologies, and developing small business, Merit3D, both located in Price. Not to mention all the other small businesses in the state.
I am grateful that the state’s restrictions on business operations didn’t go on too long and for work by lawmakers in both Utah and Washington, D.C. to enact programs that were critical to keeping small businesses afloat during the pandemic, notably state grants, the COVID EIDL loan program, and the Paycheck Protection Program.
But, make no mistake, it has been a long two years and challenges remain. According to the latest survey by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, 69 percent of small businesses owners say supply chain issues have negatively impacted their bottom line. Supply chain disruptions have been a significant issue for my small business, as we’ve struggled to get parts that we need to make our products.
As we inch toward a sense of normalcy while continuing to recover from the pandemic, I join fellow small business owners in urging Utah’s lawmakers to consider bold, forward-looking action that will address persistent challenges facing small business owners as we focus on transitioning from pandemic to prosperity.
If members of Congress are serious about helping small businesses survive and thrive, an essential step is reauthorizing the Small Business Administration (SBA), which hasn’t been done since 2000. Reauthorization would allow lawmakers to reimagine the SBA so its programs and their aims reflect the economy we live in today, not that of two decades ago.
Last week, the Bipartisan Policy Center and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, of which I am a member, released a report advocating for greater support for small businesses and detailing how crucial Congressional reauthorization of the SBA is to solving persistent challenges facing small business owners.
A common theme from the report, which drew on surveys and conversations with small business owners across the U.S., should be concerning for all: small businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with bigger companies. In my business, it has been difficult to pace wage increases with rising costs of living for my employees. We are competing with large institutions with much deeper pockets who can afford to offer signing bonuses and higher wages while delivering better benefits at lower costs. For small businesses to offer comparable benefits, it comes at a higher premium and lowers the amount of working capital we have to grow our businesses.
Through reauthorization and other efforts, Congress and the SBA can offer common sense solutions to the challenges small business owners are facing, including renewing the employee retention credit, streamlining processes, improving outreach about existing resources and making it easier for small businesses to provide benefits to their employees.
Reauthorization also provides an opportunity to address small business owners’ difficulty in accessing capital, which is critical not only to sustaining businesses through crises like the pandemic, but to expanding, hiring and serving customers.
Lending institutions are not always the first place small businesses turn to for credit, especially in rural areas like Price. In any given year, fewer than half of small businesses seek external financing. Even during the pandemic, many small business owners relied on their personal savings rather than cutting staff or operations or seeking non-debt funds such as grants or donations.
In reauthorizing the SBA and through other efforts, programs and technical assistance for small businesses should be enhanced to ensure that more small business owners are adequately prepared to apply for credit and that programs are available to serve small business owners who may be unlikely to seek credit from a traditional lending source.
We have come a long way in two years. And while it will take some small businesses years to fully recover from the pandemic, bold action, including Congress reauthorizing the SBA to reinvigorate the agency and better address the challenges small businesses face in the modern economy, is a logical place to start.
Spencer Loveless is the second-generation CEO/Owner of Dustless Technologies and founder and CEO of Merit3D. He is an entrepreneur at heart and is focused on creating jobs in rural Utah and bringing manufacturing back to America. Loveless graduated from Utah Valley State University and lives in Price with his wife and five energetic boys.