VOL. 119 | NO. 113 | Tuesday, June 28, 2005
By Andy Meek
New Business Activity Continues to Rise
Downtown, Hickory Hill tops for business license filings
The Daily News
The problem with how to sum up new business activity in
Metro Memphis over the past year is a little like one the Small Business
Administration faced in a panel discussion held last week in Chicago.
In both cases, too many question marks rule out simple answers.
The SBA hearing was one of 11 being held across the country to help the group
retool its definition of small businesses. But the talk was bogged down by such
questions as, Should employee size be the determining factor? If so, what
about a business that pulls in millions in revenue?
Likewise, the jury is still out on what to make of the
competing variables and economic forces that drove local and national commerce
Economic indicators. On one hand, the governments
most recent job-creation numbers showed only 78,000 last month far less than
expected. But other economic indicators are more promising.
Tom Kavanagh, chairman of the Memphis chapter of the Service
Corps of Retired Executives, said SCORE has seen a recent uptick in business
activity, reversing a decline over much of the past year. And more new ventures
are opening 6,365 new business licenses were filed with the Shelby County
Clerks Office from June 2004 to May 2005, up from 5,983 in the same period the
In Memphis alone, 4,661 business licenses were filed up
slightly from 4,575 in 2004, according to The Daily News Online,
It has slowed down in the past year or so, and thats been
the case nationally for SCORE in terms of the number of people we are seeing,
Kavanagh said. But last month it picked up again, so I dont know whats
causing it I dont know if its a blip or if its going to continue that
It may, if more business owners like David Wang jump into
the fray. Wang, owner of Wangs China Bistro, reopened his restaurant about a
month ago at 113 S. Main St. after Hurricane Elvis damaged its previous
location at No. 1 Beale in 2003. So far, Wang said, the lunch crowd has been
large and is growing, and hes excited about the new location.
This is almost like the center of everywhere down here,
Downtown growth. Other Downtown entrepreneurs
apparently agree. In first quarter 2005, restaurants were part of one of the
largest categories of new businesses in Downtowns 38103 ZIP code, that of
sales of prepared food and drinks. The largest was the professional services
category, which includes lawyers, doctors and architects.
Beyond Downtown, there were few changes in the hotspots for
new businesses in 2004. From June 2004 to May 2005, the most new business
licenses were filed for ventures in zip codes in the Hickory Hill, Whitehaven
and Knight Arnold/Perkins areas.
During that period, 38115 saw the highest total, with 373
business licenses filed. There were 364 in 38116, and 343 in 38118. Those
totals marked only small changes from the same period the previous year; all
three areas were also at the top of the list a year ago. As in Downtown, most
new businesses that opened in each area fell in the professional services
And while more Metro Memphis residents are snapping up new
homes in suburbs such as Arlington and Bartlett, theres a reason most new
businesses opened their doors within the 240 loop in 04. Dr. John Gnuschke,
director of the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the
University of Memphis, said it has to do with an entrepreneurs location and
his willingness to go to a different part of the city to run a business.
Investment uncertainty. Kavanagh said an even more
dramatic increase in the numbers could have been seen had there been layoffs at
a major employer recently.
But we havent had much in that regard recently, he said.
That will sometimes get people thinking about going into business for
themselves, particularly for those people who maybe are in middle management,
and theyre given a pretty good package when they leave the company.
So are the increases good news? Not entirely, thinks Harold
Byrd, vice chairman of Bank of Bartlett. Byrd said he is seeing more
uncertainty than enthusiasm among investors at the moment.
Even though our loans were up this year over last year and
weve had two straight years of increases, weve never worked harder to do it,
Byrd said. And I think what youre seeing is theres much less activity and,
it seems, fewer players out there trying to get loans. Theres just not nearly
the amount of entrepreneurial activity going on now as there was, in my
opinion, say five to 10 years ago.
Byrd said most of Bank of Bartletts current business is
with established clients or new clients who have been in business several
Still, observers see positive trends in the numbers.
Gnuschke, for example, said they show a strong level of entrepreneurial
activity, even in traditionally poorer neighborhoods. SCORE also remains active
in counseling business owners, holding seminars and reaching out to new