Small business employment is on the rise in Ellis County. And so are small business loans.

Numbers released by the U.S. Small Business Administration reflect the trend is taking place across the community. The administration works with potential and current business owners to start, build, and grow businesses. One way the administration aids businesses is by offering loans.

The loans offered by the SBA are up 18.5 percent in dollars and 8.5 percent in units compared to the same period last year in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as of Dec. 31, 2017. The value of these loans equals $325 million to 498 small businesses. For the first quarter of 2018, the SBA has approved four loans totaling $1.4 million. Last year Ellis County received 22 small business loans that totaled $16.4 million. These loans created 116 jobs and retained 241.

Ennis Economic Development Coordinator Marty Nelson attributes the growth in the business community to the combination of amenities a city has to offer future residents and businesses. He noted this combination makes the town a very appealing place to live and work.

“Another factor working in our favor is the negative aspects of urban sprawl," Nelson said. "As the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex gets denser and denser and traffic gets more and more congested, people look for alternatives. Ellis County has several cities easily accessible to the metroplex but far enough away to maintain the small town feel and character.”

Nelson stated there are a plethora of opportunities for investment and development. He noted that Ennis, in particular, is becoming a destination where locals and guests will shop, dine and find entertainment.

According to Forbes, there are almost 28 million small businesses in the U.S. and over 50 percent of the population — roughly 120 million — work in a small business. These businesses have also generated more than 65 percent of the net new jobs since 1995.

Larry Barnett, Midlothian Economic Development President, shared Nelson's feeling about the growth-taking place throughout the community. He noted that factors such as quality schools and location to the Metroplex make it very attractive to developers.

“Midlothian is in a high-growth mode with residential housing, which is increasing the population. This growth has been driven by our excellent schools, but also the proximity to DFW,” Barnett said. “Our central location provides quick access to both commercial airports and most work locations for our residents. It has also spurred businesses of all types to look at Midlothian for expansion, and growth certainly provides the opportunity for small businesses to capitalize.”

Barnett shared Midlothian is not only seeing growth along U.S. Highway 287 and in the southern area of the city with developments like the Midlothian Towne Crossing, but expansion is happening in downtown. He expects growth to continue in the Walnut Grove area once the new U.S. Highway 287 Intersection project is complete.

Angel Shope, who is a co-owner of the Silver Spurs Barbershop in Red Oak, attributes the countywide growth of small businesses to people wanting more freedom in their lives. She added finding that freedom involves a lot of hard work.

“You have to face some obstacles going into your own business regardless. I was lucky because we take walk-ins and it was already an established business, so it was easier for me to get a foot in the door,” Shope said. “You definitely are going to have struggles. You want to make sure that you get your return customers and take care of them because you have nothing in the beginning.”

Shope said it is critical to investing in success is vital and — even during difficult times.

Tina Miller, who is the owner of TSC Embroidery and Salon 86 in Ferris, stated she feels that growth in population is causing the surge of new businesses to open up in the community. She even noted further growth is expected in relation to a new subdivision is under construction in the city.

Miller stated it is essential to establish a good relationship with customers along with being personally involved in the business daily.

Shane Henry, owner of Fresh Market Coffee in Waxahachie, also shared his thoughts on the rise of small businesses in the county. Henry believes it all boils down to the customer experience.

“I think that we have gotten away from the American mentality that big box stores are the way to go. People are finding that authentic value in small businesses that are locally owned,” Henry explained. “For a long time, your mom and pop stores were going out of business because they could not compete price-wise with larger retail. Now you see the flip, people want that quality product that is local and unique. They are willing to pay a little bit more (and) understand the significance of supporting local.”

Henry continued, stating this shift is seen at his business in his profits where they have steadily increased over the last three months because personal attention is what people are craving.

Co-owner of Pop’s Burger Stand in Waxahachie Ben Edwards shared his fellow business owners’ thoughts about the increase of small businesses. He noted that a customers experience plays a vital role.

"I am not what sure what is contributing to the growth, but I like to see it though. I think that more small business that you have and the fewer chains, the better quality of food you are going to get and a better experience,” Edwards said. “I really do think the reviews, people talking about how good the food is, the experience, and the atmosphere is what brings people in.”