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Women's firms thrive in S.L.-Ogden

The number of women-owned businesses in the Salt Lake-Ogden area has grown 46 percent in the past seven years, according to a new study released Tuesday.

And along with growth in numbers, those businesses have increased their revenues and the number of people they employ.The National Foundation for Women Business Owners and Wells Fargo sponsored an update of a 1996 NFWBO/Wells Fargo report. The foundation provides information for the National Association of Women Business Owners.

The new report was based on estimates gleaned from 1987 and 1992 data published by the U.S. Bureau of Census along with NFWBO's 1996 estimates, and it projects those trends forward.

As of this year, the report projects that there are 45,600 businesses owned by women in the Salt Lake-Ogden region, which represents 39 percent of all companies in the metropolitan area.

Only three years ago this area had 39,500 women-owned businesses.

The document also shows that employment by women-owned firms in the metropolitan area has nearly doubled to 94,000 people, and revenues tripled to $19.4 billion.

The women-owned businesses that are cropping up and growing also are unusual. The fastest-growing sector is the one titled "non-traditional goods producing," which includes agribusiness, construction and manufacturing. That sector went up by 66 percent from 1992-99.

"I'm not surprised by it," said Karen McArthur, the immediate past president of the Utah chapter of NAWBO. "It's a trend that has been going on for a while in this area."

McArthur said she isn't sure why Utah women are turning to non-traditional endeavors but speculates on a few reasons why.

"From what I've seen in the past, I don't think Salt Lake City women are doing any more (in nontraditional sectors) than women are nationally. But there are more opportunities for women that were untapped in the past, and they're doing more now and they're doing it more successfully," she said.

"They may be leaving those organizations and starting their own," McArthur said. "Certainly there's enough evidence of some of that with other women."

Karen Summerhays, the new president of the local NAWBO chapter, has other ideas about why Salt Lake-Ogden women are turning in increasing numbers to non-traditional fields.

"Women are realizing that they can go into nontraditional areas now and succeed very well," she said. "I think they are finding there is a lot of opportunity in those areas, and they're not stuck in areas that we used to be stuck in."

Also, Summerhays said NAWBO just signed an agreement to be part of PurchasePro, a national databank that serves for-profit organizations.

"Large corporations put their requests for bids onto the system, and NAWBO members can put in bids on those jobs and compete with all the big boys," Summerhays said.