Study: Wichita near bottom for conditions to support small businesses

WICHITA, Kansas – A data analysis puts Wichita near the bottom of the largest metro areas in the country when it comes to providing good conditions for small businesses to succeed.

The analysis of Census and labor data from The Business Journals ranks Wichita 99th out of the 101 largest metro areas in the nation for small business vitality.

For small business owners like J.R. Koontz, who has owned a floral shop in downtown Wichita for 40 years, he can see how the study came to its conclusion. He plans on selling the building where his business is currently based and relocating to another part of town.

“A lot of small businesses are looking at reinventing themselves,” Koontz said. “Certainly, in our case, we love the facility, but it’s just a little bit too large for us to continue.”

The study found Wichita was in the middle of the pack for the number of small businesses and how many it has in relation to population.

“We’re actually becoming more and more dependent on small businesses here,” Jeremy Hill, an economist at WSU, said. “If you look at the top ten industries in the Wichita area, that covers about 55 percent of all jobs.”

But Wichita was dead last in private sector job growth, due to the layoffs in the aviation industry over the past few years. Hill says those job losses have a serious trickle-down effect on the greater economy as a whole, including small businesses.

“They depend on their base industries and national conditions to grow,” he said. “Well, the national conditions are improving, but the regional economy and base industry, like aerospace, are not improving, which makes it much more difficult here in our local economy to improve.”

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