Texas Gov. Greg Abbott met Friday with 12 small business owners across Texas and heard a common theme: They need more workers if they are to succeed.
The roundtable was held at the Dallas Farmers Market as part of National Small Business Week. The business owners were all members of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices community, which advocates important policies for members.
“We focus on workers because we know you need employees for your business to work,” Abbott told them.
While 73% of U.S. small businesses currently hire, 87% of people they hire have difficulty filling these positions with skilled workers, according to a survey by Goldman Sachs this month of 10,000 small business voices.
Hyacinth Belcher runs the Dallas Onstage Systems live events company and had to let 80% of its staff pass through the night. His company lost 70% of its revenue for 18 months due to the pandemic. For three months last year, he had no income.
“We’ve lost millions,” he said. “A lot of people left the industry.”
A second-generation family business, Onstage used its savings to survive 2020. It also received two forgivable loans and one low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Now the business is recovering. The Ubbi Dubbi electronic dance music festival ran at the end of April, which was christened as the first festival after the pandemic caused the cancellation of most events in 2020.
But Belcher said he does not have enough employees to cope with the increase in applications. Before the pandemic, it had 50 full-time employees. Now, it has 25 full-time employees and is struggling to find more.
“Between 45% and 50% of the Texas workforce works for small businesses, so if we fail, the state economy fails,” he said.
Belcher suggested that Abbott and the state work to help business owners provide child care to employees to help them return to work. The Goldman Sachs survey showed that 44% of small business owners think that children’s return to remote learning would hinder employee retention.
Brandi Harleaux, who runs the South Post Oak Recyling Center metal recycling company in Houston, said revenue is higher than before the pandemic because it is part of the high-demand manufacturing supply chain.
But hiring remains a challenge, he said.
The company, which has 28 employees, has five open positions. He said about 30% of the interviews are not programs.
“Unemployed workers need to be held accountable,” he said.
A box on applications for unemployment benefits that requires a business owner to check that they were presented at the interview could be a solution, he said. And freeing people from unemployment benefits should be a priority, he said.
About 760,000 Texans were unemployed, according to new data released by the Texas Workforce Commission.