Lone Wolf Firms Growing

June 26, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The number of firms in which people work for themselves has increased to 20.4 million, the U.S. Census Bureau reported this week, and nearly 50,000 of them are located in the Grand Rapids area.

Nationally, businesses without paid employees increased 4.4 percent from 2004 to 2005, the bureau said, with 860,000 new ones, known as "lone wolves." Non-employers make up 78 percent of the more than 26 million businesses in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau.

In the Grand Rapids-Wyoming Metropolitan Statistical area, 49,354 non-employer firms claimed nearly $2.1 billion in receipts. The revenue leader was real estate and rental and leasing, at $621.6 million with 6,577 "lone wolves." Some 3,296 people who lease real estate, both residential and commercial, garnered $428.4 million in receipts. The survey counted 1,619 real estate offices and pegged their revenue at $68.9 million.

The Census Bureau culled the statistics from 2005 tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service covering 17.7 million individual proprietorships, more than 1.3 million corporations and 1.3 million partnerships.

Across Michigan, there were 639,505 non-employer firms in 2005, led by real estate's $6.58 billion in revenues. Second in terms of revenue was construction: 84,517 firms and $4.63 billion in revenue.

According to the bureau, the fastest-growing types of new "lone wolf" businesses were Web search portals, Internet service providers, nail salons, electronic shopping and mail-order houses, recreational vehicle dealers and landscaping services.

Seeing the most growth in these micro-businesses: District of Columbia, Nevada, Florida, Georgia and Utah

The Kalamazoo-Portage MSA recorded 19,994 non-employer firms with $790 million in receipts. The Muskegon-Norton Shores MSA had 9,195 such businesses gaining $337 million. The Grand Haven-Holland MSA: 17,205 firms, $800 million in revenue.

Non-employer business categories listed by 2005 revenue in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA: Real estate and rental and leasing, $621 million; construction, $408 million; professional, scientific and technical services, $197.9 million; retail trade, $179 million; other services (except public administration), $149.7 million; transportation and warehousing, $114.8 million; finance and insurance, $110.8 million; health care and social assistance, $103.7 million; wholesale trade, $74.8 million; administrative and support and waste management and remediation services, $61.6 million;  manufacturing, $48 million; arts, entertainment and recreation, $37.2 million; accommodation and food service, $29.8 million; forestry, fishing and hunting, and agricultural support services, $18.5 million; information, $13.9 million; educational services, $11.5 million; mining, $10.7 million; utilities, $753,000.     

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