When the information we seek comes from people who work in and therefore know the sector, the rest of us perhaps should pay attention. Example, this one from Paul Heinze, half of Goldberg Heinze Business Advisors and all of Paul M. Heinze Co., Barrington Hills. (Heinze and Joel Goldberg, G2G Strategies, primarily advise manufacturing companies, often counseling owners who want to sell (or buy, as the case may be).
Heinze sees "no storm clouds" in the manufacturing sector. "There are no tough concerns at all. Manufacturing is at full employment. No one seems to be looking for a different job, except to trade higher," he says.
Another interesting item: Heinze sees "hardly any equipment auctions" in the manufacturing sector where advertising for such auctions was once relatively common.
The same type of signal seems to be coming from the Small Business Development Centers that apparently have collectively regained much of their strength. With funding once again wending its way through the U.S. Small Business Administration and Illinois' Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, many (though not all) of the SBDCs that disappeared when their funding did have at least started a return.
Most of the SBDC one-on-one counseling sessions and classroom-style classes are at no cost to business owners -- or to hopeful entrepreneurs. "Last year we were getting everything back up and going -- getting the infrastructure back in place," says Harriet Parker, manager of the Illinois SBDC at Waunbonsee Community College's Aurora campus. Now, though, "People (business owner-clients) have come back," Parker says.
"There's a lot going on, and we're doing well," she says. Part of that doing well likely is because once popular SBDCs have not returned to either Elgin Community College or Joliet Junior College.
Each SBDC has considerable leeway to develop programs that best match local needs, which means there's not an easily accessible all-around sample of programs. What follows is from Bradley University's Turner Center for Entrepreneurship web page -- and, warning, is heavily edited.
Still, the edited Bradley list is an indication of what's doable:
Startups. Guidance through initial steps, including legal structure, name registration, taxes, licenses and permits. How to write a business plan. Critique, suggestions. Analysis of ideas.
Existing businesses. Analysis of financial performance, diagnosis of any cash flow problems. Analysis of business plans and financial projections.
Financing. Federal, state and local loan programs for new and existing businesses. Guidance through the bank financing process. Advice on structuring debt and equity. Referral, if appropriate, to angel finance groups and venture capital firms.
Mind, that's what the Bradley SBDC offers. Others, and there are many closer to us than Peoria, may be different. You'll have to investigate.
Keep in mind, too, that the storm clouds Heinze hadn't seeing when we talked last week could blow up pretty quickly. That's the nature of weather -- and the economy.