Montgomery draws entrepreneurs

Attracts small nonemployer businesses


The desire among individuals for control and independence in their careers has made Montgomery County one of the nation's leaders in entrepreneurs, business experts and census figures suggest.

Montgomery is among the nation's top 50 counties with the highest number of businesses with no paid employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These nonemployer businesses are run by one or more owners with no workers on the payroll, and they make up almost three-quarters of the businesses in the nation.

Part of that draw to self-employment is the flexibility and freedom it provides, said Alex Moussavi, owner of Matrixx Concepts, a sales consultancy company he founded three years ago in Montgomery County.

Most of his career was spent in sales, and he was making good money, but he wanted more control of how he worked, Moussavi said.

Montgomery had 81,018 nonemployer establishments in 2003, about 75 percent of the county's businesses, according to the Census Bureau. Prince George's County, with about 29,000 fewer nonemployer businesses than Montgomery, is second in the state.

Statewide, there were 363,387 nonemployer businesses in 2003, according to the Census Bureau.

The county's proximity to Washington and major research and medical facilities combined with a highly educated work force are part of what fosters the entrepreneurship in Montgomery County, said Richard Parsons, president of the county Chamber of Commerce.

"The importance of small businesses has been increasing here," he said. "There's a lot of opportunity."

The variety of small, nonemployer businesses helps attract larger companies that might want to contract out some of their work, said Joe Shapiro, spokesman for the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.

"This is an area that has everything you need," he said. "Small businesses are really the backbone of the economy in the county."

Working with no employees helps keep the costs down for a small business, said Jennifer Rae, owner of Invitation to Better Things, a public relations and marketing company she founded six years ago in Rockville.

She decided to become self-employed at least partly because of "the good old glass ceiling," she said.

"I never was a 9-to-5 person," Rae said. "I've always been a project-oriented person."

As a salaried employee, "a lot of times you compromise things," she said. "A lot of times."

Caroline Zaayer writes for the Capital News Service.

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