Business licenses issued during the first quarter of this year plunged 31 percent from a year ago – a steep drop that could be an anomaly.
An unusually high number of permits was issued during the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2010.
Desperation and misrepresentation could be factors, according to local experts.
Jeff Jacobs, manager of the business tax division of the Shelby County Clerk’s Office, said he thought several individuals may have obtained permits in the first quarter of 2009 just to claim federal income tax deductions.
However, Mark Taylor, an adviser at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Memphis, said many more people were looking to start their own businesses during that period.
“I’m sure for the first quarter of last year there was a big surge in business licenses,” Taylor said. “Everybody was desperate. I think people were just scrambling.”
A total of 1,590 business licenses were issued during the first quarter of this year, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.
That compares to 2,316 in Q1 2009.
Taylor said fewer people are inquiring about opening businesses now because of the tight credit market.
Banks are reluctant to loan money for startups.
“Money is still tight,” Taylor said. “We’re not seeing any real big shift on that yet.”
That trend could be changing, said an official from the research division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
David C. Wheelock, a vice president at the Federal Reserve who is an adviser on financial markets, in a recently published essay said, “Business lending may be poised for a rebound.”
His essay was based on quarterly surveys of banks by the Fed concerning lending activity.
“The percentage of respondents reporting tighter standards has declined in recent surveys,” Wheelock wrote. “In the January 2010 survey, no banks reported tighter standards on loans to large- and medium-sized firms,
while 5.5 percent reported that they had eased terms somewhat.
“This was the first survey by the Fed that reported a net percentage of banks easing terms for loans to large- and medium-sized firms since 2007:Q2.”
However, he also noted that 3.7 percent of banks had tightened standards.
Wheelock found a silver living to this number, pointing out that it was the lowest percentage of bank tightening since the second quarter of 2007.
During the prolonged credit crunch, many people have financed startup endeavors mostly from their own pockets.
Keith and Jill Forrester, the owners of Whitton Farms in Arkansas, are about to expand their operation into Downtown Memphis with the Trolley Stop Market at 704 Madison Ave. Keith Foster said they’ve borrowed only $10,000 and drawn on savings for the rest.
“It’s been a hurdle,” he said. “We’ve just been able to piece it together here and there.”
The couple had hoped to have the farm-fresh market and restaurant open by now. The opening depends on how quickly some interior renovations can be completed, such as the installation of a kitchen venting system.
The business will hire 10 to 12 people initially, he said. It could open by the end of April or in May.
In Memphis, lending by banks to small businesses remains tight, Taylor said.
“Here recently, the biggest surge of interest I’ve had in small businesses has been due to the Hickory Ridge Mall reopening,” he said.
“It sounds like the mall may make a goal of it. At least one client quoted a low rental per square foot. They obviously are making some deals.”
The Hickory Hill North ZIP code of 38115 was where the most business permits were issued during the first quarter. A total of 93 permits were issued.
The Oakhaven/Parkway Village ZIP code of 38118 had the second most with 92, followed by the Bartlett ZIP code of 38134 with 85....