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Small business owners look ahead to 2020 economy

Talia Milavetz
Created: December 10, 2019 05:43 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Industry leaders gathered in Rochester Tuesday to talk about the future of our local economy.

ABC 6 News partnered with the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce to host the Economic Summit 2020 Forecast focusing on our top industries, agriculture, healthcare, and small business.

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At the summit, small business owners talked about their expectations for the new year. Many believe 2020 will bring success but also challenges.

Ahead of the summit, ABC 6 News caught up with one of Rochester’s newest restaurants to learn about their hopes for the future.

It’s been one week since Smoak BBQ opened its doors. 

 "So far the community response has been great. People are loving the barbecue,” said Jonathan Buck.

Buck is one of Smoak’s owners, who are all part of the Rocket Restaurant Group.

 "We have three restaurants right now. We have the Loop downtown, we have Five West which is a block down the road from Smoak and then Smoak which is one week old,” he said.

Since they opened their first restaurant seven years ago, a lot has changed. 
 
 "The growth is crazy. I remember when we first opened up the Loop and driving down West Circle Drive here and none of this was here. Flash forward seven years and we've got two restaurants on this side of town there's a Costco and three hotels and the expansion and growth in this community has been great to see,” he said. 
 
Tuesday a panel of small business owners at the Economic Summit discussed whether or not 2020 would be a year of growth. 

 "Right now it looks like things are very bright. The investment climate is good; the interest rates are low. Gaining capital is much more accessible,” said President of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce Kathleen Harrington. 

However, many on the panel voiced concerns about the labor shortage, especially workers in the trade and service industries. 
 
 "If these folks can't find a living wage because the economic ecosystem in Olmsted County is driven by high paying, high tech specialized jobs these folks won't live here. They won't be able to afford to live here,” said President of Cardinal of Minnesota Jack Priggen.

Buck said that’s a real problem facing new businesses. 

"You need a lot of staff members. We could always use more. The people that we have are all really good in quality. It's just a large operation with our catering and ‘to go’ so it's been a little bit of a challenge but we're getting there,” he said.

Overall, he’s optimistic for the new year. 
 
 "Hope is to get the snow away, open up the patio and just be able to service more of the Rochester community,” he said.

In more ways than one. 
 
 “For every pound of brisket sold we are giving back one dollar to the Hope Lodge,” he said.

The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge provides a free place to stay for cancer patients and their caregivers. 
 
 "Rochester is doing such a great thing to us patronizing our establishment we'd like to give that back to Rochester as well,” said Buck.

Working towards a better 2020 for everyone. 
 
 At the Economic Summit, leaders also discussed the future of agriculture and healthcare industries. Healthcare is expected to continue to be a strong sector of the local economy with Mayo Clinic advancing their virtual care. While agriculture could continue to face more challenges in 2020, with tariffs and unpredictable weather. Like small business, healthcare and agriculture will also struggle with the workforce shortage. 


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