Once struggling, small businesses show promise in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ga. – The future looks bright for small business owners based in Columbus. The Chamber of Commerce, CB&T and others kicked off Small Business Week Monday to share the state of small businesses in the Fountain City. A small business is defined as having 500 or fewer employees that brings in less than $10 million in revenue per year. According to one expert, they make up about 80% of all businesses nationwide.

“We’re really the backbone of what makes this country great,” small business owner Cedric Hill said.

Hill is a third-generation funeral home director. He’s grown up in Columbus, and the future opportunities small businesses create are what makes him stay.

“I think small business is up and coming. I think it’s been kind of in a dormant state because of many people who feel like being in a small business, they’re not recognized or realized.”

Mark Lupo is the area director of the UGA Small Business Development Center. He says small businesses usually struggle with getting startup funds understanding certain federal regulations. But the most important piece for growth, Lupo says, is relationships. Networking can offer opportunities not yet learned by resource seekers.

“We believe that the right idea, the right resource, the right contact at the right time can be life changing for some people,” Lupo said. “And our role is creating an environment where those connections can happen.”

Lupo says Fort Benning’s customer base protected Columbus from the dramatic effects other communities felt during the recent recession. Still, many small business owners are feeling heavy pressure when it comes to running an entire operation, sometimes on their own.

“The owners generally do everything in the company,” CB&T President Billy Blanchard said. “They have to be the expert in everything. They have to be the expert in HR, they have to be the expert in finance. Often times, they have to be the primary salesperson. They have to deal with the regulatory environment, whatever the issues are.”

Blanchard also explained some of the struggles for small businesses: growing too quickly and not building a solid foundation, as well as not learning about different federal regulations.

Columbus-based businesses employ around 30,000-40,000 people in total.


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