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Chamber to celebrate small businesses

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The top local small businesses for 2019 are going to receive honors in less than 10 days, with Rocky Mount Mills to be the location of the annual awards gathering.

The Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Celebration is set for 6 p.m. June 27 in the Power House. Chamber President and CEO David Farris said a sell-out crowd of 250 is going to be attending.

For many years, the gathering had been at the Rose Hill Conference Center northwest of Nashville.

"And we just decided this year to move it to the mill," Farris said. "We like to move some of the events around every few years. I think it helps showcase other venues — and it kind of keeps it fresh."

As for whether the 2019 gathering is going to be the scene of the largest crowd for a Small Business Celebration, Farris said, "If it's not, it's going to be the largest in recent history, that's for sure."

"It’s going to be right up there," he said.

Not only does the Chamber honor the small business of the year, but also the downtown small business of the year, the legacy small business of the year, the small business advocate of the year and the people's choice entrepreneur of the year.

The legacy small business of the year honor goes to the business owned through the years by generations of the same family.

Farris said his and his team's bottom line is that small businesses are the backbone of any community, regardless of the size.

"We all tend to realize and appreciate our bigger businesses and industries, but 95 percent, give or take, is made up of small businesses of a hundred employees or less anywhere — not just in Rocky Mount, but pretty much everywhere," he said.

Statistics from the federal Small Business Administration published last year showed there were 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S., which accounted for 99.9 percent of businesses in the nation.

The SBA data showed there were 58.9 million small business employees in the U.S., which comprised 47.5 percent of the private workforce in the nation.

Additionally, the SBA data showed there were 890,398 small businesses in North Carolina, which accounted for 99.6 percent of businesses in the state.

And the SBA data showed small businesses employed 1.6 million people in the state, which comprised 44.3 percent of the private workforce in the state.

Chamber Board Chairman Cameron Stallings, a senior vice president of BB&T and the bank’s market president for Edgecombe and Nash counties, said he knows the importance of small businesses because he grew up in a family in the air conditioning, heating and plumbing business.

"They’re the key to the economy, in my opinion," Stallings said. “Big business is great and they’re important, but small business makes up the body of eastern North Carolina."

Stallings also made clear involvement in the Chamber provides one with the chance to learn about different companies he or she may not know of in the community.

"And I think the Chamber is a great avenue for you to meet people," he said.

Theresa Peaden, who directs the Small Business Center at Nash Community College, said small businesses collectively create more jobs than a large industry and said small businesses are more diversified.

"We definitely want to get the large companies to come in and we definitely want them to stay — but there's occasions when maybe they don't stay and they move to another area," she said.

Peaden emphasized small businesses tend to stay in the community for the long term.

"And they also are really great supporters of our high schools and community colleges and nonprofits, along with the industries as well," she said. "But many times, they have children or grandchildren in the schools. So they really move out to be a big support piece for them."

ElectriCities and Family Medical Center of Rocky Mount are set to be the presenting sponsors of the Small Business Celebration.

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