Understanding the Small Business Sweet Spot

By Tom Garrity


Insights from the 2020 Garrity Perception Survey

Note: The following is an excerpt from the 2020 Garrity Perception Survey. Information on how to download your copy is at the end of this post.

It should come as no surprise that small business is the most favored industry/institution in New Mexico. Small business has been atop the Garrity Perception Survey since its inception in 2011.

In the wake of COVID-19, small business is getting a lion’s share of attention and reaping goodwill. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program was designed to help small business. However, large companies took advantage of what critics in hindsight call a poorly constructed relief effort. This resulted in a fierce localized protectionism of small business (read Closer Look: Small Business on page 6). 

New Mexicans were asked to rate their impression of various industries and institutions using a five-point scale where a score of five is very favorable and a score of one is very unfavorable.

Overall, small businesses are viewed the most positively by New Mexicans, with 79 percent having a favorable opinion (receiving a rating of a four or five on a five-point scale), followed closely by the farming and ranching industry at 77 percent. Seven in 10 residents also say they have a favorable opinion of the film and motion picture industry, which has expanded rapidly in the state in the past decade.

According to the data source USAFacts (January 2020), 54 percent of New Mexico’s overall employment can be found in small business. New Mexico is in an elite group, among the top 10 of states with a workforce made up of small businesses.

While the Small Business Administration determines a small business to be those with fewer than 500 employees, firms with fewer than 100 employees have the largest share of New Mexico’s small business employment. Catron, Colfax, Harding, Lincoln, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance and Taos counties have some of the highest percentage of self-employed New Mexico residents.

Since 2011, small business has consistently been the most favored of any industry or institution in the annual Garrity Perception Survey.

A lot of attention has been afforded to small businesses, specifically retail and restaurants, in the midst and wake of the COVID-19 crisis. As a way to provide small businesses with insights on how their industry is perceived by their audiences, we hope this information can be used to create a way for small business owners to engage relevant advocates. After all, if we know more about our target audience, we know where we need to be relevant.


While the annual Garrity Perception Survey has rich and relevant cross tab data, we will focus on the items that caught our attention.

Women are more favorable about small business than men. This is a substantial shift over the past nine years.

The target age demographics for New Mexico residents who have a favorable opinion of small businesses (starting first with the most favorable) are the 18- to 34-year-old age group, 65 years and older, 50-64 years and 35-49 years of age.

Household income is also a determining factor when identifying target audiences. Residents who have the most favorable opinion of small business are those earning less than $20,000 annually. Interestingly, favorability of small business consistently declines as income increases.

College graduates as well as residents with some college or an associate’s degree have a favorable opinion of small business. 

One of the big swings in disparity seen in the 2020 survey results is favorability based on length of residency. Newer residents, those living here less than eight years, have a higher favorability (85%) than those who have lived here eight to 20 years (76%) and people who have been here for more than 20 years (79%).

The biggest statement of support for small business was made by those who are politically independent. Ninety percent of independents have a favorable opinion of small business, compared to 75 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans.

Geography also plays a role in favorability. Residents living in the Northwest and Eastern parts of New Mexico have the highest opinion of small business when compared to residents living in other parts of the state.

If you were to identify characteristics of your target audience, it would include these demographic groups: female, 18-34 years old, incomes up to $79,999, residents who have had some college (or an associate’s degree) and/or are a college graduate, relatively new residents and those who are politically moderate.

About the Garrity Perception Survey and P.A.C.E.

The 2020 Garrity Perception Survey is a scientific survey of New Mexico residents conducted by Research & Polling Inc. The survey has a 95% level of confidence. The Garrity Group first commissioned the survey in 2011 and makes its cross-tab data available to help its clients identify and understand their target audience. The PACE solution leverages the demographic and geographic insights as a way for our clients to be relevant before their New Mexico audience. Identifying how our clients are Perceived by their Audiences, we Create a way for them to Engage relevant advocates. For more information visit GarrityPR.com.

About The Garrity Group

The Garrity Group is a New Mexico public relations firm that helps small businesses to be heard and large organizations to be understood. Established in 1997 and based in Albuquerque, our team provides media relations, issue management, crisis communications, digital media marketing and event awareness.

Published July 6, 2020

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