If you’ve come across a national media story about Utah in the last few years, there’s a good chance it was about our booming economy and incredible business climate.
It is no secret that Utah is one of the top states in the country to start a business and has been for quite some time. Forbes, CNBC, WalletHub, Business Insider and even the United States House Small Business Committee have recognized the business-friendly environment and access to resources that makes our state so attractive to innovators looking for the best location for their businesses to succeed.
Today, we have almost 280,000 start-ups and small businesses, which make up over 99 percent of Utah companies, employ nearly 50 percent of our people, and account for two-thirds of all job growth. Everything from the tech landscape to the life-sciences industry is flourishing, and job openings are at a record high.
Without a doubt, the health of our economy directly correlates to the strength of our small businesses.
For the past year, Utah’s small business community has had a new champion in Congressman John Curtis. As a member of the House Small Business Committee, Curtis is uniquely positioned to advocate for small businesses and Utah’s burgeoning start-up community. As former mayor of Provo, one of Utah’s most industrious cities and innovation hubs, he understands the challenges Utah small business owners face, and has given them a powerful voice in Washington.
One of the most difficult hurdles small business innovators face is accessing capital. To help address this gap, the Small Business Administration administers several guaranteed loan programs that focus on increasing this access. In the past, however, these programs have been heavily burdened by conflicting regulations and in some cases ultimately hurt the very people they were designed to help. Without improvement, many small business owners have struggled to take advantage of the programs, and in turn struggled to stay afloat.
In July, Congressman John Curtis introduced the Small Business Access to Capital and Efficiency Act, otherwise known as the Small Business ACE Act. This critical legislation will modernize SBA lending programs, clarifying complex and conflicting regulations, and improving small business owners’ access to much-needed capital to help their businesses thrive. This bill is an important win for the little guy.
When small businesses can access capital, amazing economic growth is possible. One of the best success stories of SBA loans is Utah’s very own Casper’s Ice Cream. During the hot summer of 1925, Casper Merrill created the “original” Ice Cream Nut Sundae on a Stick and sold the frozen treat from a 10-gallon milk can at a local 4th of July celebration. It was a hit! The business took off and with access to capital through the SBA’s lending programs was able to expand.
Today, FatBoy Ice Cream Sandwiches are enjoyed across the nation and Casper’s has become one of the country’s leading manufacturers of ice cream and frozen treats. Casper’s has over 170 employees and President and CEO Paul Merrill was recently named the Utah Small Business Person of the Year.
Thanks to Congressman Curtis’s legislation, more small businesses than ever will have better access to the kind of capital and resources necessary to take great ideas like the FatBoy Ice Cream Sandwich and turn them into global successes.
This week, the Small Business ACE Act is expected to pass the United States House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support. The bill illustrates Congressman Curtis’s dedication to ensuring federal programs and policies are working for the innovation economy here in Utah, not against it.
We applaud Curtis’s sharp attention to one of the most critical factors of small business success, and his triumph at effectively shepherding this legislation to passage.
Howard Headlee is the president and CEO of the Utah Bankers Association; Scott Simpson is the president and CEO Utah Credit Union Association.