Small Business Index: Access to Capital Strong Amid Record High Optimism

The Q3 MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index indicates the majority (69.7%) of small business owners have a positive outlook about their company and the small business environment in the U.S. Their optimism continues to increase and overall business health is up one point from last quarter. The optimistic outlook, the current economic climate, and recent legislative reforms are creating a stronger environment for small business owners to grow their businesses.

“Small business owners continue to tell us that they are confident in the national small business environment, and, just as encouraging, most have confidence in their local environments as well,” said Jessica Moser, senior vice president for Small Business Solutions at MetLife. “This bodes well for the U.S. economy, as small businesses are consistently an engine for growth all across the country: purchasing equipment and inventory, paying taxes, and employing ever-increasing numbers of individuals.”

This is the sixth consecutive quarter the Index has risen, and year over year the Index score has increased by 7.4 points. The rise in optimism reflects a rebound in the national economic outlook and denotes the highest levels in the history of the survey.

Amid the general optimism, access to capital is strong. However, that access differs across all small businesses. Less than one-quarter (23%) of small businesses report that it is hard to obtain financing, but opinions vary based on recent experience with the financing process. Those having sought financing in the last year are twice as likely (41%) to report that getting access to credit is difficult than those that have not tried (20%). Businesses that have applied for credit at some point in the past, rather than in just the past year, were more likely to say it is easy to obtain financing (70%) rather than difficult (24%).

“After the 2008 financial crisis there was a decline in small businesses’ access to capital. Recently, Congress took steps to make it easier for small businesses to get capital,” said Tom Sullivan, U.S. Chamber vice president of small business policy. “We are moving in the right direction, but more policies that ease small businesses’ access to financing need to occur to ensure this vital sector of our economy continues to grow, create jobs, and positively impact communities across the country.”

Small businesses that report to be in good health and those that stated they were not in good health were equally likely to have sought financing in the past year. The 71% of small business owners who say their operation is in good health indicate it was easy to obtain financing or credit, while only 40% of those in not good health indicate the same. Businesses in not good health are more likely to receive only a partial amount (41%) or be rejected altogether (25%), than those in good health (10% and 8%, respectively).

The longer a small business has been in operation, the more likely it is to receive the full amount of financing. Three-quarters (75%) of businesses in operation for more than 20 years received the full asking amount versus two-thirds (66%) of companies with 11 to 20 years in operation, and just half (51%) of those in operation for less than 10 years.

The overall optimistic outlook and current economic conditions have influenced small businesses’ reasons to secure financing. Nearly half (44%) of small businesses that applied for financing in the last 12 months are more likely to say they plan to increase investment in their business in the next year than those who have not applied for financing (21%). Additional motivators were to buy new equipment (27%), keep up with increased local competition (22%), expand/upgrade facilities, (20%), or buy inventory (9%). Only 11% of business owners said the financing was necessary to keep the business afloat.

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Terry Mulreany
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