Experts: The Outlook is Brighter for Small Business

‘There’s a general feeling of optimism by and large for 2022’

Steve Yablonski

The general consensus is that there is still a lot of COVID-19-related challenges that small businesses are facing, according to Andrew Fish, senior vice president, business development at CenterState CEO.

Andrew Fish
Andrew Fish

“It depends on the type of business,” he said. “Those that interact directly with customers, they’re still struggling. By and large there is some optimism and things are getting better.”

But there are still some major challenges — labor shortages for one, he pointed out.

“There is still a large part of the workforce that hasn’t come back to work yet. Everyone is struggling to find people at just about every level,” he said.

“Those are themes that we are hearing. “We are still hearing a lot of challenges regarding the supply chain, in terms of getting material. It’s a logistics issue largely for anything coming in from overseas, tied up at ports.”

But there’s a general feeling of optimism by and large for 2022, he added.

Throughout the pandemic, small businesses have struggled to survive.

John Halleron
John Halleron

Things have been looking better for them of late. The Syracuse metro area economy continues to recover from the pandemic-induced recession.

“Small business has handled the pandemic quite well in my opinion,” said John Halleron, senior business adviser with the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Oswego. “Many have rethought their hours, offerings and staffing levels. This is particularly true in the restaurant businesses.”

Being a small business allows for much easier modifications, he said, noting that decisions can be made and executed as needed, as opposed to waiting for corporate instructions.

“We don’t make predictions about what to expect in the future, especially given the unpredictable nature of COVID,” said Karen Knapik-Scalzo, associate economist, New York State Department of Labor.

Private-sector jobs continue to grow in the Syracuse MSA, as the area added 4,000 private-sector jobs between November 2020 and November 2021.

Bernard Paprocki
Bernard Paprocki

This represents a 1.6 % growth rate, according to Knapik-Scalzo.
“The metro area has still not reached pre-pandemic job levels. For example, the Syracuse metro area is still down by 16,200 private-sector jobs when compared to November 2019,” she added. “A declining labor force and some employers having difficulty recruiting workers, has hampered further job growth in the area.”

The Syracuse MSA unemployment rate has been trending down and reached 3.8 % in November 2021.

“It is a very good job market for jobseekers looking for work, especially within the accommodation and food services; professional and business services; transportation and warehousing; and manufacturing sectors,” she said.

“From a safety standpoint, I feel that the attitude of ‘smaller is better’ gives local businesses the advantage over big box stores,” Halleron said.

He added the number of startup businesses appears to be about the same.
“I feel that 2022 will be a welcome relief for many businesses,” Halleron said. “They have weathered the storm and will now reap the rewards.”

“Our small business ecosystem continues to recover thanks to vaccinations, allowing workers to come back to their jobs and offices safely,” agreed Small Business Administration Upstate New York District Director Bernard Paprocki. “As a result, unemployment levels have been cut. For example, in the metro Syracuse area, the high of 17.3% unemployment in 2020 was drastically reduced to just 3.8% as of the tally’s last reporting.”

The SBA guaranteed almost 1.1 million small business loans throughout its various traditional and economic aid programs in Upstate New York in FY21, totaling more than $61.6 billion, Paprocki pointed out.

“As small business owners continue to tackle issues ranging such as finding employees, supply chain solutions state and other state tax and regulatory issues, SBA resource partners like our small business development centers, SCORE counselors, veteran business outreach centers can provide individualized, one-on-one assistance for free,” Paprocki said. “What’s more, the SBA Upstate New York district will be promoting our traditional financing programs, particularly 7(a) working capital loans, to continue small business growth in our 34-county service area.”