This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20, 2010 - praise the entrepreneur

Guess what I know?

I know who created 60-80% of all the net new jobs in this country over the past ten years. I know how many of them there are. I know old they are, what gender they are likely to be, and a little bit about their background.

I know where they live.

And I know how to help them. (Thanks to the wonderful research of a librarian friend of mine, Christine Hamilton-Pennell. See growinglocaleconomies.com.)

It's not a secret. On the other hand, despite all the information that's out there, you don't hear much talk about it. That's odd, since the economy is surely one of the most important issues faced by Douglas County.

There are several big ways to promote economic development.
* Business attraction and recruitment. The idea here is to bring in big outside employers. Usually, that means big box retail. The idea is that big employers generate all kinds of benefits, although it often takes various kinds of tax incentives to get them here.
* Business retention. Keep the ones we've got! (Sometimes, those big employers pull out, too.)
* Workforce development. Some people need help to get started, whether it's in acquiring basic computer training, learning how to write a resume, understanding a little bit about work place expectations, and so on.
* Reduce "income leaks." There are people who live here, but spend their money elsewhere. A thriving economy invests in itself.
* But here's the big one: support the unsung hero of the local entrepreneur.

What do I mean by entrepreneur? I like Hamilton-Pennell's definition: "an entrepreneur is someone who perceives an opportunity and creates and grows and organization to pursue it."

What's so important about entrepreneurs? Consider the following:
* 97.5% of firms have fewer than 20 employees. These small firms created 60-80% of the net new jobs over the past decade.
* Two-thirds of the the net new jobs were created by firms 1 to 5 years old. They are responsible for half of the United States' non-farm real Gross Domestic Product.
* Half of the U.S. businesses are home-based.

Who are these entrepreneurs? We know a few things about them.

First, they comprise roughly 10% of the global population.

From 1996-2007, Americans between 55 and 64 had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those aged 20-34. But don't count out the youngsters yet. Limited job market leads teens to consider entrepreneurship as a viable - and maybe a vital - alternative

Here are a couple of interesting data points about "minorities:" more men than women start new businesses (maybe because more than 60% of businesses are self-financed). But immigrants are far more likely to start new businesses than native born residents. How come? Well, think about it. Emigration takes, literally, a lot of get up and go.

One of the crucial factors about the entrepreneur is this: they're already right here in Douglas County. They don't have to be lured in with big breaks. They're probably not going to pull up and vanish -- they've raised their families here. They are part of our community.

And I said I know how to help them. It turns out that the main obstacles to entrepreneurial success are things the public library can readily overcome: a lack of knowledge of industry and market conditions and trends.

Specifically, entrepreneurs need to know:
* Who are my target customers?
* Who are my competitors?
* What are the characteristics of my market?
* What are the trends and developments in my industry?

For now, I can give this short piece of advice. Would-be entrepreneurs could start by looking at this website: douglascountylibraries.org/Research/iGuides/SmallBusiness.

But there's more to say about business in Douglas County, and more than one source of sound advice. Look here next week for news about an important cooperative project of the library and your local newspaper.

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