Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Motor vehicle traffic and a Trax train travel on Main Street Thursday, March 22, 2012.

Whenever politicians get together they like to talk about how important small business is to the economy. The truth is, small business is critical to the economy. Collectively, small businesses have been the biggest job creators in the United States. According to Karen Mills, outgoing head of the Small Business Administration, there are approximately 4.5 million Main Street type small businesses — one of the four types of small businesses the Administrator identified in a recent Washington Post column — and they rank first as America’s job creators.

“Main Street businesses make up 70 percent of the jobs in our country,” she says.

I think the small businesses Mills identified, as the biggest jobs creators in our country, are probably the type of small businesses we are most likely to identify with. Whether or not they ever become “big” businesses, small businesses are the lifeblood of Main Streets all over the nation — and Utah.

Over the last 20 or so years, Junior Achievement of Utah has recognized the business owners in Utah who made enduring contributions to the state’s economy with products and services that push the envelope. The Utah Business Hall of Fame was established in 1990 as a way to increase awareness of those contributions, recognize exceptional business leaders and inspire young people with stories of the real heroes of Utah—those people who invest their time and energy to make Utah a better place to live and work.

Some of the names in the Hall of Fame you might not recognize but you definitely would recognize the companies they started and their contributions to our communities. However, it’s not enough to simply be successful — the criteria also include an investment in the community.

High moral and ethical principles.

Significant entrepreneurial achievements that positively influenced an industry and/or community.

Proven ability to positively mentor.

Landmark accomplishments and continuity of achievements.

Notable success at a young age.

Risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit.

Philanthropic deeds

Last fall, O. Jay Call of Flying J and James Lee Sorenson, of Sorenson Media were inducted into the Hall of Fame. They join the ranks of some pretty impressive business people, and most of them started out very much like the Main Street business owners Mills lauds as the biggest job creators in the country.

Whether or not you and your business ever make it to the Hall of Fame or get recognized by Utah Business Magazine as one of the Forty Under 40, or even make the Inc. 500, the contribution your restaurant, dry cleaner, or other Main Street business makes to the Utah economy and the health of our communities really can’t be measured by awards and accolades.

During National Small Business Week last June, I wrote a piece in Forbes about how small businesses give back to the community. I was inspired by an event sponsored by the local Rotary Club in Bountiful and the generosity of the local businesses in the area.

My daughter-in-law introduced us to the event because she and my son spent some time in one of the contributing businesses, Burt Brothers Tires. Her uncle, Ron Burt, is one of the sponsors of the event. Along with other Bountiful-area small-business owners, they step up with the goal of making sure local area children have the winter clothes they need to stay warm and healthy through the cold winter months in northern Utah.

Other than the thanks of the children and families that live in his community, he’s likely not going to receive a lot of recognition for what he and his colleagues do to give back, but they continue to do it. In fact, this particular event has happened every spring for the last 13 years — and provided more than 3,500 children with new winter clothes. I think the Rotary Club and the local businesses are really doing something meaningful to help their community.

Bountiful isn’t the only place stuff like this happens either. Rotary Clubs, local businesses and town councils all over Utah work together by sponsoring pancake breakfasts, car shows, picnics, neighborhood cleanups and other events to help their communities thrive and grow.

1 comment on this story

Not only are the small businesses in our communities (some we likely even ignore) collectively the biggest single job creators in the country, but they also step up when it counts and give back to the cities and towns where they live.

I know that big businesses give back to the community, too. I don’t want to diminish the value of their contributions. I just like the idea of how the barbershops, mechanics and local restaurants quietly join together without a lot of fanfare and regularly contribute to the places we live.

I think small businesses in Utah make a big impact. What are you going to do this week to support a local small business?

As a main street business evangelist and marketing veteran with more than 25 years in the trenches, Ty Kiisel writes about leading people and small-business issues for