Small business owners are some of the strongest, most resilient people you will ever meet. They know what it’s like to take risks, work hard, make tough decisions, and turn a profit to benefit …
Small business owners are some of the strongest, most resilient people you will ever meet. They know what it’s like to take risks, work hard, make tough decisions, and turn a profit to benefit their community.
The last few months have been arduous for Wyoming’s rural small business owners and entrepreneurs. Yet once again, we’ve seen that in times of crisis, small businesses step up to provide for their employees and serve their hometowns.
At the Small Business Administration, we have made it our frontline mission to support small businesses in Wyoming as they work to find new and unique ways to serve their communities. This mission was especially aided by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — a lifeline that kept people on payroll, kept businesses in business and reduced the negative impact of public health closures on local economies. Since this program was launched, over $525 billion in emergency relief funding was awarded to 5.2 million small businesses, nonprofits, agriculture producers and operations in nearly every sector. More than 15% of the program’s total funds went to businesses in rural communities, too, saving countless jobs and channeling millions of dollars into main streets and hometown economies.
Over the last few months, we have talked with countless small business owners who told us that the PPP was just the lifeline they needed to survive. We’ve been beyond impressed at how these businesses have not only used the proceeds to pay their employees, but have creatively served their communities amidst this trying time.
Take Bishop Sales, Inc., for example.
Butch Aultman has worked in the oilfield for more than 40 years. In 1999, he purchased Bishop Sales, a well-known oilfield supply company in Casper that he says has doubled in size since he purchased the business. When COVID-19 impact reached Wyoming, Aultman says all his success was in jeopardy.
“I have a small staff, but they’re very important to me. Without the PPP I would’ve had to shut down, and I wouldn’t have been able to pay them,” he said. “The PPP literally saved my business.”
Service-based industries have also faced challenges throughout the pandemic.
Fawn Powell, a U.S. Navy veteran, and Mike Gatewood, an Army veteran, own Flex Fitness in Evanston where they provide nutrition consultation and personal training for their rural community. Powell said it was “scary” when the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus forced them to close for 44 days, but they were grateful to receive a PPP loan that allowed their employees to continue working and receiving paychecks.
“We were closed to the public, but we still got a lot of work done,” Powell said. “We did a lot of deep cleaning and got the gym ready to go. When we were able to open, we were slammed, and the PPP funds helped us cover those extra hours we needed from our staff.”
The company has now reopened and has implemented additional cleaning guidelines in order to best serve their community.
There’s no doubt that times are still tough. Uncertainty continues to pose a significant challenge to small businesses everywhere. Together, though, we’ll continue using every available resource to help business and entrepreneurs pursue their American Dream. To learn more about SBA programs for rural small businesses, visit www.sba.gov/rural.
(Dan Nordberg serves as SBA’s national director for rural affairs and Region 8 administrator based in Denver. He oversees the agency’s programs and services in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota. Amy Lea is the SBA district director for Wyoming, based out of Casper.)