The number of entrepreneurs is increasing in the Tri-Cities. So are their gross receipts.
According to the Census Bureau’s latest count, there were 31,009 nonemployer businesses in the seven-county Tri-Cities region in 2017. That’s a 1.8% increase from the previous year. It was a pretty good growth number for a period when total area employment increased by 1.5%; the number of private sector jobs was up by 0.3% and nonfarm job growth was 0.4%.
Nonemployer firms don’t get much public notice. The chamber of commerce squad doesn’t show up with a ribbon and the big scissors when a new nonemployer business takes the plunge. And although they’re counted by the business dynamics folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) their role in monthly labor market reports go unnoticed by the public and in some cases are undercounted by government number crunchers. But that doesn’t diminish their economic significance.
For the record, a nonemployer firm has no employees other than the owner. They must have receipts of $1,000 a year or more that’s subject to federal income taxes. Nonemployer businesses have been around longer than employer businesses. And they were drivers of the gig economy when it was called moonlighting. But for some individuals, it’s a full-time job.
Nonemployer firms cover a wide swath of trades and professions. The actual work varies from lawn maintenance, independent building trade people, cosmetologists, graphic artists, food truck operators, financial advisers, medical technicians, tech-support gurus, computer coders, medical technicians, and even doctors.
The per capita total receipts were $41,797 in the latest count.
The individual in the mining, quarrying, oil, and gas sector had the highest per capita receipts $85,824. Individuals in the wholesale trade and real estate sectors also had per capital receipts in the $80,000 range.
Those involved in utilities had the least per capita receipts – $6,818.
The largest number of nonemployer businesses fall into the Other Services labor sector. Their ranks also had the largest decrease from 2016 – 29 firms. Folks engaged in this labor sector do general automotive repair, electronic and precision equipment repair, commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair and maintenance, personal and household goods repair and maintenance. They also offer personal care services in barber shops, beauty and nail salons, death care services, dry cleaning and laundry services, pet care. Others work in private households, civic and social organizations, religious organizations and business, professional, labor and political organizations.
Runner up for the largest number of nonemployer firms is construction, followed by administrative and support services.
The sector that saw the most growth was retail trade. It increased by 184. During the same period, it also posted the largest total receipts loss – $3.7 million. The receipts loss lines up with the slow growth trend in local sales tax collections and the overall retail apocalypse that is written about so much in the mainstream media.
Practitioners in the real estate and rental and leasing sector had the largest total receipts gain – $12.8 million. This sector of nonemployer businesses does real estate rental and leasing. They work in the offices of real estate agents and brokers, do property management, real estate appraisals, automotive equipment rentals and leasing, consumer good rentals, commercial and industrial machinery, and equipment rentals and leasing.