How big a deal are small businesses in West Virginia? Pretty big, according to a recent article in WVNews.
The article, published March 30, 2019, quoted Nikki Bowmar, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, saying that "there are approximately 114,391 small businesses in West Virginia. Cumulatively, these businesses make up 99 percent of the total number of businesses in the state and employ 280,213 people — nearly 50 percent of the state’s workforce."
Last year, a prominent West Virginia lawmaker, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, garbled a related talking point, saying that small businesses "make up about 96% of our state's economy." PolitiFact rated that statement Mostly False.
Manchin was wrong because he used the term "the economy," which refers to all economic output in the state. While small businesses account for nearly 99 percent of businesses in the state, small businesses only account for about half of employees in West Virginia. The other half of workers, who work for a small number of big companies, produce a disproportionate share of economic output due to their large workforces, economists told us.
So did Bowmar get it more accurately? Yes, though the data is a bit old.
When we contacted Bowmar, she sent us the same data release that we used when we researched Manchin’s statement -- the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy’s 2018 Small Business Profile.
Bowmar’s remark in the newspaper lined up with the data in the agency’s profile.
The only caveat is that the data was collected in 2015. Small businesses are created and fail all the time, making the numbers somewhat volatile. Still, the data she cited is the most recent available.
Bowmar said that small businesses in West Virginia make up "99 percent of the total number of businesses in the state" and employ "nearly 50 percent of the state’s workforce."
That’s correct according to the most recent data from the federal Small Business Administration, though the data is a bit old. We rate it Mostly True.
WVNews, "'The lifeblood of communities': Small businesses encourage growth in NCWV," March 30, 2019
U.S. Small Business Administration, 2018 Small Business Profile, accessed on April 8, 2019
PolitiFact, "Joe Manchin off-target on small business share of West Virginia's economy," March 26th, 2018
Email interview with Nikki Bowmar, public affairs specialist for the West Virginia district office of the Small Business Administration, April 8 , 2019
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