This month the country celebrated and shopped small for Small Business Saturday on November 24. In Arizona, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 97% percent of businesses and employ 45.1% of individuals.

In the next two years, Arizona’s Office of Economic Opportunity projects that employment opportunities will increase by 150,000 positions.

Small businesses are driving the economy forward and critical to the region’s future economic growth. However, small businesses are struggling to expand in every sector.

According to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, approximately 49% of employers indicate that they are unable to fill open positions.

The skills gap is affecting the ability of companies to expand. In fact, 37% of companies can’t take on new business due to the skills gap.

With continued job growth, it is vital that the business community, educational institutions, and community leaders continue to support efforts to build a robust, diverse talent pipeline that will close the skills gap.

In an effort to promote economic prosperity and to support small businesses looking to expand, the Greater Phoenix Chamber (the Chamber) and the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation (the Foundation) work to address issues preventing businesses from growing and strengthen the talent pipeline.

Business Retention & Expansion

Through the Chamber’s Economic Development efforts, the Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) program connects existing businesses to resources needed to overcome business challenges. Based on findings from the visits, the BRE team coordinates with organizations and relevant agencies to help business owners resolve issues and capitalize on growth opportunities.

During the first quarter of FY 19, the BRE team, in conjunction with the Arizona Commerce Authority and City of Phoenix, conducted more than 170 in-person visits.

Learn more about the Chamber’s BRE efforts and results by reading the most recent report.

Workforce Development

While connecting businesses to resources is helpful, it is also vital that the business community convenes leaders to develop solutions to business and community problems.

The Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation launched employer-led workforce collaboratives to address the growing skills gap facing the region. The collaboratives focus on key industries such as Construction, Cybersecurity, Financial Services, and Hospitals.

Each employer-led collaborative includes businesses of all sizes.

Small business owner and longtime Chamber member Specialized Services Company (SSC) is an active member and founding investor of the Construction Workforce Collaborative.

“The issue of the workforce shortage in construction is real and affecting our entire industry,” said Michelle Walker, Vice President Finance and Administration. “We view our investment in the Workforce Collaborative as an investment in the industry that we are passionate about to be able to continue to be a driving force in Arizona’s economy.

”Since 1969, SSC served Arizona diligently and expanded their business. Today, SSC employs 40 individuals and generates approximately $5 million in revenue.  SSC is an example of a small business making big impact in Arizona. However, even with a strong economy and plenty of work, SSC struggles to expand due to workforce constraints.

“It is limiting the projects that we can pursue to take on because we do not know if we have the workforce to perform it,” Walker said. “It also gives us pause when considering major investments in equipment as we don’t know if we will have the employees needed to maximize the investment–especially when considering new technology that will require training and development to put into operation.”

As the workforce collaboratives continue to build solutions, it’s important that small businesses are active participants and partners to help move Phoenix forward.

Learn more about the Foundation’s workforce development efforts and the workforce collaboratives.

-Written by Miranda Cain-Morton, Development and Communications Manager

Posted by Danny Imes