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Bill Rubin column: Small business make B-I-G impacts

Bill Rubin

Long before Mr. Sam Walton became a dominant player in retail and distribution, he boldly opened Walton's 5/10 (Five and Dime) in Bentonville, Arkansas in 1950. His decision to take a chance in Bentonville was less than scientific — wife Helen liked small town living and the city's location in northwest Arkansas enabled Sam to take advantage of numerous hunting seasons in neighboring states. Success in Bentonville led to the first Walmart store in nearby Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. The rest is not history. History is still being made by the Walmart.

Boyhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen talked frequently about starting a business that could build on their computer programming skills. Before there was Microsoft, Gates and Allen teamed up on little-known Traf-O-Data, a computer that was used to track and analyze automobile traffic data, back in 1972. Finding early success, the duo established Microsoft on April 4, 1975. The original name was Micro-Soft, a shortened version of microcomputer software. History at Microsoft continues to be written.

Earl Bakken and a brother in-law launched Medtronic in Minneapolis-Fridley, Minnesota back in 1949. It served as a medical equipment repair business out of one of the partner's garages. Bakken was later introduced to Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, a heart surgeon at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lillehei suggested that Bakken develop a battery powered pacing device for the heart. Today, Medtronic is a global giant in medical technology.

Walton, Gates, Alle, and Bakken all started small. Success led to growth, which led to stock offerings and publicly-traded companies. Thousands and thousands are employed in companies started by them. Each of these companies has spawned other businesses from former employees with bigger and brighter ideas.

2019's U.S. Small Business Week is May 5-11. The week celebrates and recognizes the importance of small businesses. There are 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S., according to the Small Business Administration's office of advocacy. They comprise 99.9% of all firms, including 97.6% of exporting firms. An estimated 47.5% of all private sector employees earn their paychecks from small businesses, which amounts to 40.8% of the private sector's payroll. Best of all, 66%t of all net new jobs come from small businesses.

From Main Streets to business and industrial parks, communities are full of small businesses. Like Walton, Gates, Allen and Bakken, small business founders are risk takers, innovators and generally independent. Here's to small businesses. Happy Small Business Week 2019.