Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chamber Is Looking to 'Map the Gap'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chamber Is Looking to 'Map the Gap'

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis

Bet you didn't realize that 95 percent of the 33,533 business enterprises in Northeast Florida were small.

When I say small, I mean a business with 50 or fewer employees. That number covers Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties and it comes from U.S. Census Bureau surveys.

The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce wants to "map the gap" of what small businesses sell compared with what the area's large employers need. Ulrich Research Services of Orange Park intends to launch a purchasing survey within two weeks to determine what those large companies are buying outside the seven counties.

When that's completed, the chamber will tap into a database of area businesses to see whether any of them provide the goods and services that large companies aren't buying here.

"If they're buying widgets from North Dakota, let's see how we can fix that," said Glenda Washington, senior director of economic inclusion at the chamber's Small Business Center.

Washington told the chamber's government affairs committee on Tuesday that the effort not only could mean more opportunities for existing small businesses, but it also could spur development of new ventures. Bob Baldwin, chamber vice president of small business, said it's too soon to tell how many businesses will be be built into the database but that it will "be inclusive, not exclusive."

Small businesses face a lot of hurdles and if they can tap into corporate purchasing, their survival and growth rates might improve. The Small Business Administration reports that about two of three new businesses survive at least two years and half make it at least four years. Not all of them close because of financial problems, but more could survive if they can catch a few more breaks on the way up. …

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