Chris Wilkes, for Dallas Morning News
Amazon’s announcement that it will select a city for a second headquarters is like a piece of meat tossed into a pool of sharks. We could do better for economic growth by using some of the energy being put into winning Amazon to target the many small- and medium-sized businesses that have been the main driver of growth in our nation.
I run a software company in McKinney, and thanks to the partnership we formed with the McKinney Economic Development Corporation, we have grown and added millions of dollars in payroll. That payroll drives homebuying, shopping and the support of other local businesses.
The thousands of small business owners who select our region and employ our citizens are the main sustaining growth engine for our economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) account for 99.7 percent of all business in the U.S. and employ some 56.8 million people. And small business drove the recovery from the Great Recession. Some 60 percent of the jobs created were from small business from 2009 to 2013.
Winning Amazon’s second headquarters location would be great. Just like winning Toyota’s relocation was. Yes, Amazon is big business, big money, a big story and, for the winning region and city, a big impact. We’ve been fortunate in North Texas to win large corporate relocations in the past decade, so I’m confident that our region is well-poised in this campaign as well.
Every city and region allocates dollars to fund and woo large elephants like Amazon. What most small business owners may not realize is that cities similarly fund dozens or hundreds of smaller scale deals annually. Small business is the lifeline for most cities, so even a firm of 50 to 100 employees is positioned well to negotiate on its own merit, just as Amazon is doing on a much larger scale today.
Young or fast-growth companies often face seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Our region’s economic development boards and Small Business Administration offices have supported many businesses at times when cash is short and needs are high — almost a given at some point in a small business’ life cycle. The small business wins with incentives or cash to fund operations, and the city wins with potential for tax revenue and local jobs.
My company, Sigmetrix, is one of the small business enterprises fueling North Texas. Years ago in our quest for growth, we collaborated with the City of McKinney and its Economic Development Corporation, which provided financial assistance with our location. We have repaid them by adding millions in payroll, home value tax base and local shopping.
Separately as an angel investor, I’ve mentored scores of entrepreneurs on how to get aid from local cities at the right time in their growth. In both scenarios, the incentives and cash made all the difference in our ability to become a growing, contributing business in those cities.
So, while only one city will lay claim to the Amazon win, I’m hopeful that scores of small business owners in North Texas and beyond will find our local pitch packages enticing and consider relocation and growth through our economic development boards and city governments. Let’s recognize, support and woo the entrepreneurs and companies that are making a difference daily in our economy.
Chris Wilkes is chairman of the North Texas Angel Network and chief executive of Sigmetrix. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org