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Where little is big // Small businesses are a growing factor in Citrus

Ask owners of small businesses what they like best about owning theirbusinesses, and most will say it's the autonomy they have. It's nice being your own boss.

The down side is that if you want to be successful, you often must work long hours week after week.

Joe Fallon of Inverness, owner of Joe's Deli, said he works "about 80 or 90 hours a week."

"Working the equivalent of two full-time jobs means you sacrifice some of the time you get to spend with your family. But I do what I have to do," he said.

"I work in the store and at my home about 60 hours a week for the

business, and my husband spends a lot of hours running deliveries," said Jan Robertson, who along with her husband, Bud, owns Jan's Uniforms and Monogramming in Crystal River.

Despite that drawback and economic problems such as the rising minimum wage, increased costs for worker's compensation, unemployment compensation and other insurances, the number of people starting small businesses continues to grow in Citrus County.

State records show that the number of businesses employing fewer than 20 workers grew by about 10 percent in Citrus County last year.

Earl McCranie, research assistant for the Department of Labor and

Employment Security, Bureau of Labor Market Information in Tallahassee, said the number of small businesses increased from 1,416 in 1988 to 1,455 in 1989 in Citrus County.

"These figures represent a good increase for a county the size of Citrus. I think the numbers will continue to grow in the years to come, because there are a lot of people on our West Coast moving north," McCranie said. "New people moving in will bring even more business to Citrus County."

According to the Citrus County Occupational License Department, 1,078 more occupational licenses were issued in 1989 than in 1988.

"We saw a tremendous amount of small businesses open in Citrus County last year. Our membership grew by 100 members," said Mary Craven, executive director of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

"Last year our Chamber added about 200 members, which is astounding. But I think the outlook for this year is as good or better," said Sheree Monroe, executive director of the Crystal River Chamber of Commerce.

Economic pressures continue to be felt by the small business owner.

"Workman's compensation is in a real turmoil, the rates have gone sky high. Unemployment compensation and insurance rates are also rising," Monroe said.

Craven said the minimum wage will increase from $3.35 to $3.80 April 1, and to $4.25 April 1, 1991.

Monroe said most everyone is sympathetic to those working at the

$3.35-an-hour wage. "But the real problem will start when people who are making more than minimum wage will expect an increase in their pay. When you see an increase in these wages, then businesses will have to charge more for their goods and services," she said.

State officials agree that although some economic indicators show small businesses may face adversity this year, an increase in small-business activity is expected in Citrus County.