by Cameron Macht
As the economy has started to recover, opportunities for job seekers are increasing. So, too, are opportunities for people to strike out on their own and start their own businesses. Self-employment is a very important – but often overlooked – component of local economic health, especially in rural areas. In Southwest Minnesota, self-employment accounts for nearly 70 percent of the businesses and as much as 15 percent of the jobs in the region!
In fact, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), there were 11,300 self-employed businesses in the 14-county Southwest Minnesota region in 2009, generating sales of more than $380 million. In addition to existing entrepreneurs, self-employment has become an increasingly critical option for workers who were laid-off during the recent recession and slow recovery, giving these residents a chance to stay in the region.
Who knows how many more would-be entrepreneurs have the ideas and the desire, but don’t have the knowledge or the resources to get started? Where would they go to find out more information about what the region or the state has to offer in support of their business dreams?
Because of the opportunities for growth, the Southwest Minnesota WorkForce Council has decided to focus on self-employment for economic and workforce development, and is working to improve opportunities in the region.
In addition to helping local job seekers understand what occupations are in demand and what industries are growing in the region, the WorkForce Council has expanded the Southwest Minnesota Careers website to include a reference page on support services for self-employment.
These resources include websites aimed at helping small businesses get started and are useful to people all across Minnesota:
- Guide to Starting a Small Business (produced by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development)
- Minnesota Center of Rural Entrepreneurship
- Small Business Development Center (including the Southwest Minnesota office)
- Southwest Initiative Foundation
The efforts are expected to pay off in the future. In a recovering economy, self-employment is a great opportunity to gain jobs and create wealth in local communities, using talent that is already available. In a recent informal survey, economic development professionals in Southwest Minnesota estimated that more than 25 percent of self-employed businesses expanded and became employers. What’s more, the success rate of these businesses was higher when the local economic development professionals were involved in the process of starting the business.
Connecting people to business resources (like those listed above) may indeed be the start of something new.
Cameron Macht is a labor market analyst for the Central and Southwest Minnesota regions at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.