BY SARAH EINSELEN PHAROS-TRIBUNE
---- — Out of 748 businesses in Cass County in 2011, how many could be classified small businesses?
If you’re talking to the U.S. Small Business Administration, nearly all of them: 745.
The SBA is observing National Small Business Week starting today, and to that agency, any business employing less than 500 people is considered a small business, said Monty Henderson, a business advisor in the local Indiana Small Business Development Center based in West Lafayette and Kokomo.
Even by other standards — say, businesses with 50 employees or fewer — Cass County’s businesses are mostly small. In 2011, 708 businesses employed fewer than 50 people. More than 360 had fewer than five employees.
Most people Henderson talks to are surprised by the number of small businesses in Cass County, he said. That may be in part because many of Cass County’s small businesses aren’t retailers.
“Small is different to many people. Small may be a mom-and-pop place,” he explained, but in Logansport many small businesses are manufacturing entities “that hire a lot of people and add a lot of wealth to the community.”
“Those tend to be a lot of the movers and shakers,” Henderson said. Their administrators participate in local economic development initiatives and sometimes as elected officials, he said. “They provide a lot of knowledge and continuity and really help drive the success of the community.”
Compared to larger companies, he added, small business owners’ involvement is greater.
“It’s pretty rare that you would see CEO’s and COO’s and heads of departments participate at the community level like small business owners do,” Henderson said.
In turn, one local small business owner says the business climate in Logansport favors smaller establishments.
Anthony Carmichael, owner of Carmichael Electric and a member of the Logansport-Cass County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said he’s encouraged by the prevalence of small businesses in the area.
“To me, I think that’s really a great selling point for our community,” he said. He added that the support he received when first starting his business five years ago was strong, too.
He’d been playing around with electricity since childhood, he said, and finally decided to chase his dream of going into business as a self-employed electrician after several years working a variety of jobs.
“You find in some communities that if you don’t have the right last name, or you don’t have enough big money backing you, you’re not going to make it,” explained Carmichael. “This community’s not that way.”
Another small business owner attributes the success of her natural supplements store to a variety of factors.
“There are a lot of people that whine a lot that Logansport doesn’t support [small businesses]. I have not seen that,” said Judy Masters, who opened Judy’s GoodLife Emporium in 1998.
Her father — a longtime Logansport businessman and one of the founders of LDI manufacturing company — gave her plenty of valuable advice in her early years of self-employment. Then when a fire damaged her building in 2002, “people emerged to help,” she said.
“They offered things that I might need to get back into business,” Masters recounted. “Who does that, really, if you’re not in a smaller town?”
“My experience has been good, except that I really didn’t like the fire,” she added. “I think Logansport and Cass County tend to take care of their own — if you contribute. You have to contribute tothe community.”
She added that Cass County residents are also conscious of measures beyond the price of a product or service.
“Yes, they’re cost-conscious, but they’re also very quality-oriented,” Masters said. “They want the best product at the best prices — they’re not just looking for super-cheap.”
“And I think their standards are reasonably high,” she added.
Carmichael said he’d seen the same phenomenon among those looking for electrical contractors.
“They feel a small guy usually works a little harder to make sure they’re satisfied, in comparison to maybe a larger company,” Carmichael said. “You find that it doesn’t always come down to a matter of who’s the cheapest.”
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.