Experts anticipate some growth for small business; Companies face higher expenses
Steady growth seems to be on the minds of most business advisers and small business owners for 2006.

Shannon Leddy, of Shannon M. Leddy Interior Design in Hopewell Junction, said she believes her two-year-old business will probably do a little better this year.

"Interest rates are starting to rise and the housing market is probably going to bottom out. With that said, people might want to stay where they are living," Leddy said, pointing out the downside. "Then again, more people might want to do home improvements and I might come in more as a consultant."

There are pros and cons facing small business owners this year, but experts said the economy alone shouldn't affect the savvy business owner in the end.

Charles North, president of the Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce, noted the increasing costs to small business owners such as the rising price of energy, health care, worker's compensation and minimum wage could hurt certain small business owners in 2006.

Minimum wage increased

The minimum wage increase, he said, is a double-edge sword.

"Those that are paid minimum wage deserve to make more. At the same time, it's just another expense for the entrepreneur," North said. "The entrepreneur that stays in business another year becomes stronger, and that's what makes the small business owner a special person."

North added he was cautiously optimistic for the new year.

"I believe small businesses will continue to grow at a moderate pace," he said.

Garret M. Corcoran, president of the Amenia Chamber of Commerce, said business in Amenia has picked up in recent years and as a result the chamber is growing.

A benefit to small business owners is created by the influx of new residents to the area.

"The migration of people from the New York and New Jersey is one of the factors that is contributing to the development of the Hudson Valley," said Arnaldo Sehwerert, director of the Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center. "It's a very good time to start a new business here, and I think this will continue into 2007."

The Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center, headquartered in Kingston, was able to help businesses generate $41.6 million in new investments in 2003-04. In comparison, it generated $46.7 million for the same period in 2004-05.

"I can't say we did anything different this past year, so it's a reflection of the economy and small business," Sehwerert said. The mid-Hudson center serves Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, Sullivan, Greene, Schoharie and Delaware counties and has offices in Poughkeepsie, Fishkill, Newburgh and other sites.

Not many problems

Nancy Kappler-Foster, chairwoman of the Dutchess County chapter of SCORE, said she hasn't heard of too many small business owners that were "drowning."

"You drive down the road and see the normal 'oh, that's gone,' " Kappler-Foster said regarding retailers. "There are also other businesses that seem to be on the fast track to having a good solid base. There are certainly positive signs for small business owners in Dutchess County."

Whether the economy does well or poorly shouldn't affect anyone's decision to open a business, experts said.

"There are so many other factors that you can control," Kappler-Foster said. "It's just one element that needs to be considered and there are others of equal weight." Such elements include your type of product or service, your funding base, your basic skills, experience and who is on your team.

Sehwerert agreed.

"With the right business plan, proper financing, good marketing and sales strategies — you are more likely to succeed no matter what the economy is for small business," he said.

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