Although 71 percent of U.S. small business owners think the economy is still cloudy, 72 percent of Minnesota small business owners, and 69 percent nationally, have a sunny outlook for their prospects, according to the annual U.S. Bank small business survey.
Rick Hartnack, vice chairman of consumer and small business banking, said small business people are "creating ways to survive despite lingering concerns about the economy.
"Business is rebounding, especially among businesses with at least $1 million in annual sales and five or more employees," Hartnack said. "Prospects for growth are particularly strong, as are their plans to hire."
Economic uncertainty, which seems to be the national constant created by Washington warfare, the blizzard of often-contradictory economic reports and eurozone worries, remains the No. 1 concern among respondents. And health care reform is a growing concern with a majority of respondents fearing they will be adversely impacted.
Small business owners are most concerned, going into the 2012 elections with issues of health care, the solvency of Medicare, jobs and unemployment taxes and the growing federal deficit. Amid the consternation, about half of the small business owners surveyed in Minnesota, Illinois, California ,Wisconsin, Arizona and other U.S. Bank states say they plan to take at least a couple of weeks vacation this year. That's a good thing.
More info on the survey of 3,220 small business owners with under $10 million in sales is at www.usbankconnect.com.
QUALITY COUNCIL REDUX
The Minnesota Council for Quality celebrates its 25th birthday at its annual conference and awards ceremony on Tuesday with an eye toward the future.
The council, supported by about 300 businesses and nonprofits, will announce its new name, an expansion into the Dakotas and developments with the University of Minnesota and the United Way on how to accomplish more with less through its focus on "quality principles."
The council was created by the late Gov. Rudy Perpich and the Minnesota Legislature as part of the national movement to improve manufacturing, quality and productivity and reward best practices as embodied by the "Baldrige Awards," named for the late U.S. Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige.
State funding ceased in 1998 and Congress recently ended federal funding for Baldrige-related initiatives.
Brian Lassiter, president of the Minnesota Council, reports "we're at the center of creating a new national business model that integrates the 33 independent state programs with the Baldrige program into a new self-sustaining 'Baldrige Enterprise,' to further our collective work in improving businesses, schools, hospitals, nonprofits and government. As the Minnesota program changes and expands, we're doing so in a coordinated way with the national effort to improve outcomes, performance, competitiveness."
ROSSY'S NICE RIDE
Rossy Rivera, a longtime Brooklyn Park accountant who switched to sales with Mary Kay more than a decade ago, has won the use of the coveted pink Cadillac.
Rivera moved to Columbus, Ohio, to expand her business at the invitation of the company two years ago and was a finalist in the Hispanic Business Person of the Year competition of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. She still has a Minneapolis-area business and one of her daughters has joined her in the company.
Rivera joined Mary Kay because of the flexibility and woman-empowering culture after she became a single-parent of four young daughters. She is now a senior sales director and mentor to other Mary Kay representatives.
The Mexican immigrant, who said she could speak little English when she arrived more than 20 years ago, has a Latina-oriented business clientele and attributes her success to the satisfaction she gets "helping women develop their abilities and self-esteem."
MORE MINNESOTANS CAN GET RELATIVELY SPEEDY BROADBAND INTERNET SERVICE THAN COULD ONLY EIGHT MONTHS AGO, SAYS A NEW REPORT FROM CONNECT MINNESOTA, PART OF A FEDERALLY FUNDED PROGRAM FOR MEASURING INTERNET USE ACROSS THE NATION.
About 85 percent of Minnesotans now have access to broadband download speeds of 6 million bits per second and upload speeds of 1.5 million bits per second -- up from about 81 percent last October. In addition, the study said nearly 95 percent of rural Minnesota households had access to broadband of some sort, but didn't specify the speed. (Some rural broadband download speeds are as slow as 1 million bits per second or less.)
The report didn't reveal how many people actually subscribe to the broadband services that are available. As recently as last year, a survey showed that 28 percent of Minnesotans didn't use broadband at home, said Bill Hoffman, the program manager of Connect Minnesota.
REBUILD RESOURCES, THE 28-YEAR-OLD NONPROFIT THAT HELPS RECOVERING ADDICTS AND ALCOHOLICS THROUGH SOBRIETY SUPPORT, TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT, TRAINING AND COACHING IS MERGING INTO THE BUSINESS-ENTERPRISE SUBSIDIARY OF THE LARGER PROJECT FOR PRIDE IN LIVING (PPL). ST. PAUL-BASED REBUILD, WHICH HAD STRUGGLED FINANCIALLY, WILL CONTINUE TO OPERATE UNDER ITS OWN NAME. THE REBUILD BOARD WILL DISSOLVE AND FOUR MEMBERS WILL JOIN THE BUSINESS-ORIENTED BOARD OF PPL ENTERPRISES.
Total revenue of the merged operation will approach $5 million and benefit about 200 individuals, some with criminal backgrounds, who get a second chance through important "social enterprise businesses." These businesses provide value for customers and trainees through business-to-business and consumer retailing, recyclable material processing, custom apparel and promotions, contract manufacturing and light assembly. Janet Ludden, a Rebuild board member, becomes president of the merged PPL Enterprises operation.
There's still room to learn about immigration reform and how immigration helps drive economic growth, from the perspective of Minnesota business leaders, at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, June 8, at the Northland Inn in Brooklyn Park. Hear from Doug Baker of Ecolab; Hubert Joly of Carlson, Michael Fernandez of Cargill and Jeremy Robbins, policy adviser and special counsel to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. More info: business.mnchamber.com/events.