SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – After struggling through an incredibly difficult 2020, small businesses in Savannah and Chatham County are coming back and, in many cases, thriving.
That’s the conclusion of the 9th annual State of Small Business in Chatham County report. It says small businesses have proven to be the backbone of the local economy.
“I am so grateful to be the mayor of a city with such resilient small businesses,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.
Dr. Michael Toma, who is an economics professor at Georgia Southern University, says the total employment in the region has effectively recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
Toma says retail and hospitality businesses are still working to recover fully but that new jobs have been created in the logistics and the business and professional services sector.
“Small businesses have been particularly resistant to the pandemic in Chatham County,” said Toma. “While larger businesses lost 12 percent of their employment, small businesses only lost about 8 percent.”
“They have been finding a way to re-engage in the County economy in what was a very difficult year so congratulations to small business owners,” he added.
Toma defined small businesses as having fewer than 50 employees and says they now have job numbers about 2 percent higher than before the pandemic. He also said small businesses now comprise 94 percent of all business in Chatham County and employ about 60,000 people.
While there is good news to share, there were also figures that show about 20 percent of Black-owned businesses in Chatham County closed during the pandemic. That is compared to 41 percent nationwide.
The issue, according to the report, is a lack of access to capital for those minority business owners.
Other information indicated that more than 50 percent of all small business owners used their own money at certain points to keep their business operating.
Still, many business owners seem excited that the report is positive and that small business clearly is playing a huge part in the city and county’s economic viability.
“Chatham County’s economy and Savannah’s have roared back and that’s absolutely true for small businesses as well,” said Toma.