By Dan Nordberg and Marla Trollan
Small-business owners are some of the strongest, most resilient people you will ever meet. They know what it’s like to take risks, work hard, make tough decisions and turn a profit to benefit their community.
The last few months have been arduous for Utah’s rural small-business owners and entrepreneurs. Yet once again, we’ve seen that in times of crisis, small businesses step up to provide for their employees and serve their hometowns.
At the Small Business Administration, we have made it our frontline mission to support small businesses in Utah as they work to find new and unique ways to serve their communities. This mission was especially aided by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — a lifeline that kept people on payroll, kept businesses in business and reduced the negative impact of public health closures on local economies. Since this program was launched, over $525 billion in emergency relief funding was awarded to 5.2 million small businesses, non-profits, agriculture producers and operations in nearly every sector. More than 15 percent of the program’s total funds went to businesses in rural communities, saving countless jobs and channeling millions of dollars into main streets and hometown economies.
Over the past few months, we have talked with countless small-business owners who told us that the PPP was just the lifeline they needed to survive. We’ve been beyond impressed at how these businesses have not only used the proceeds to pay their employees, but have creatively served their communities amidst this trying time.
Take FireFly Automatix, for ple. FireFly engineers and manufactures large turf harvesters in northern Utah. Their team’s mission is to reduce labor while increasing quality and productivity for turf farmers in rural America and beyond. Though their business operated at full capacity before the pandemic, they saw more than half of their operation slow to a halt after the state closures set in. For them, receiving a PPP loan meant relief from what CEO Matt Aposhian called a “gut-wrenching” situation. “The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program funding has been a tremendous stabilizer, so we weren’t thinking about layoffs or cuts constantly, but we focused on innovation and efficiency instead,” he said.
With the PPP covering payroll for their 135 employees, Aposhian and his team had flexibility to implement innovative ideas. They launched Facebook Live demo tours since traveling to local farm demos was no longer an option — a measure that was both practical and cost-effective. They also prioritized sanitation measures and ensured proper social distancing for employees. “The PPP changed our attitudes and confidence in immeasurable ways,” Aposhian said. “We are increasing hours again and moving back to full capacity in the factory.”
There’s no doubt that times are still tough. Uncertainty continues to pose a significant challenge to small businesses everywhere. Together, though, we’ll continue using every available resource to help business and entrepreneurs pursue their American Dream. To learn more about SBA programs for rural small businesses, visit sba.gov/rural.
Dan Nordberg serves as the Small Business Administration’s director of rural affairs. Marla Trollan is the SBA district director for Utah.