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VOL. 111 | NO. 142 | Monday, August 4, 1997

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The vast majority of small businesses are computerized, but most are not cruising the information superhighway, according to a new study by the National Federation of Independent Business Education Foundation Small business slow to surf While many small businesses in the country are computerized, most dont have Internet access By CAMILLE H. GAMBLE The Daily News The vast majority of small businesses are computerized, but most are not cruising the information superhighway, according to a new study by the National Federation of Independent Business Education Foundation. While more than three of every four small businesses report having computers, only about 40 percent of all small firms are online. The new findings, based on a Gallup poll of 1,000 members of the NFIB, indicate computer usage among small firms continues to grow, though at a slower pace. The number of small businesses with at least one computer increased by about two percentage points per year from 1994 to 1997, about half the rate of increase logged form 1990 to 1994. The study found rates of computer ownership, online usage and e-mail addresses vary significantly according to several factors. Compared to older owners, those younger than age 55 are more likely to have computers and be online. Rates did not vary significantly among the younger age groups. Compared to businesses in rural areas (fewer than 5,000 people), those in metropolitan areas (500,000 or more in population) are more likely to have computers and e-mail addresses. The likelihood of firms being online and having e-mail addresses increases with the number of employees. For example, fewer than one in three (31 percent) of the smallest firms (one to four employees) use an online service, while 71 percent of firms with 20 or more employees are online. Only one in five (19 percent) of the smallest firms has an e-mail address. Charles Horton, owner of Horton & Associates of Memphis, is computerized and was on the Internet with America Online before canceling the service. The small claims adjusting company has five employees. Horton said he has every intention of going back online but is looking for a local Internet service this time around. "I need to get another Internet provider because there is a lot of information on there that I could use and access without having to go some where else to find it," Horton said. "Im trying to find a local Internet provider instead of somebody like America Online. But most of the literature we receive is on America Online and the other larger providers of Internet service." There also are several small companies in Memphis that like to do business the old-fashioned way, which means not only no Internet service but also no computer. Stewart Bronson of Tommy Bronson Sporting Goods in Memphis said his 72-year-old retail company has done quite well without a computer. He said, however, from what he has heard about the Internet, it might be something he could benefit from in the future. "Maybe Im just stupid," Bronson said. "I probably should be on the Internet. I guess I just dont know what Im missing." Bronson, who admits he just got his first cellular phone this year, said the fear of getting "hooked" on the Internet is one reason for his hesitation. Other companies are waiting for the Internets popularity to grow a little more before jumping online. "We are updating our computer system, and we wanted to wait until we have a complete upgrade before getting on the Internet," said E. Denby Brandon Jr., a certified financial planner with an office in Memphis. "We dont think we are missing anything now, but we think the Internet has some potential for the future." NFIB Education Foundation senior fellow William J. Dennis, author of the study, said the survey suggests that business strategies relying on the Internet to reach the small business audience will be no more than marginally successful, at best. "Online penetration of the market is still relatively low," Dennis said. "And the proportion of businesses actively using the Internet - as indicated by having an e-mail address - is no more than a quarter of the small business community." The NFIB Education Foundation is the research and education arm of the National Foundation of Independent Business, the nations largest small business advocacy group. This study was based on data collected by the Gallup Organization in a May telephone survey of 1,000 NFIB members.
PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751