With a new administration; a dynamic global economy; and widespread concern about economic, political, and social standards, I think we all feel a bit unsteadied by uncertainty in the air. From Brexit to presidential tweets to immigration and the future of healthcare, many of the norms we’ve come to know have been challenged…for better or worse.
And yet I think that there is one area where optimism is appropriate–the strength of the U.S. economy, especially among small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Index of Small Business Optimism, small-business optimism reached its highest point in January and has remained steadily high throughout 2017. Almost one quarter of small business owners feel that the next three months will be a good time to expand; roughly the same percentage anticipates higher earnings through the summer; and almost a third of respondents have had their borrowing needs satisfied.
This economic optimism is far from boundless. Hiring continues to be a challenge; finding qualified employees is one of our most important obstacles. Lending remains tight. And with global uncertainty comes understandable economic hesitancy.
But I like today’s economic trajectory, and I think that our own experiences at Prime reflect what’s happening around the country. While I won’t share too much detail (our competitors read our blogs too), there are positive trends at Prime and elsewhere in America.
With four new hires in 2016 and six in the first half of 2017, Prime’s size and breadth of talent have grown precipitously. According to the NFIB Optimism Index, hiring activity in May is at an almost all-time high in the 43-year history of the Index.
In addition to our Atlanta headquarters, Prime has offices and staff in Tampa, Florida; Dallas, Texas; and Cincinnati, Ohio. This expanded presence throughout the U.S. allows quick, hands-on access to our current projects.
With our new talent and our office growth comes strategic focus.
– Our Tampa office drives our aviation and transportation focus. We’re designing runways, taxiways, hangars, facilities, and specialty systems for airports, airlines, and logistic companies, and we are a leader in the niche market of aviation fueling–one of only a few firms nationally that provide engineering services in this specialty.
– In the Dallas/Houston area, Prime specializes in the petrochemical industry, designing and building terminals, multimodal distribution facilities, and midstream pipelines to the oil and gas industry.
– And in Atlanta, we’re continuing to furnish the services on which we have built our reputation–delivering complex projects with a high degree of reliability to help our clients and partners succeed in every way. Our experience on projects across the country allows to bring a wide range of expertise to each project.
As I said in my introduction, not all is perfect. Like so many companies in so many industries, finding capable talent is a challenge. The NFIB Index survey revealed that finding qualified workers was the second-most-important challenge for small business. That’s particularly true for a company like Prime that often competes against much larger companies while continuing to deliver highly complex projects in a deeply personalized fashion. We aren’t looking for specialists, but we are looking for expertise.
I still stay awake at times thinking about our future. But the last 18 months have given me a greater sense of optimism than I’ve had in more than five years. I hope the future looks brighter for you as well. Congratulations to all of us–the little guys–who are helping keep the U.S. economy on the right track.