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Seeking Small Business Relief? Get Ready To Wait

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ If you're looking for relief from surveys and reports that say small business owners are feeling bleak: Stop.

The data is everywhere. It comes from small business associations and advocacy groups seeking to get the attention of lawmakers and big business. It's commissioned by companies hoping to use the information they collect to draw attention to the products and services that they sell. And then there are reports from industry groups, academic institutions and think tanks looking to find new information and insights to help small business owners.

For at least a year â¿¿ through the presidential election and the fiscal cliff crisis â¿¿ part one and part two â¿¿ surveys and reports showed little change. In the next several months, small businesses and the people interested in their success should brace themselves for more of the same. Right now, small companies have a lot of reasons to avoid risk:

â¿¿ Economic and policy hurdles: Health care costs are uncertain and federal budget cuts are squeezing businesses' profits and people's pocketbooks.

â¿¿ Revenue is down: A survey by software maker Intuit shows that small companies' revenue fell nearly 1 percent in the six months that ended in January.

â¿¿ Borrowing is almost stagnant: PayNet, a company that supplies credit ratings for small businesses, says owners have barely increased their borrowing in the past year.

Small business owner Terri Slater is uneasy about her public relations company because two clients put marketing campaigns on hold after they lost venture capital funding. Prospective clients are taking twice as long to decide whether to take her on. She uses freelancers to get marketing projects done.

"I don't feel comfortable enough to make an investment in new employees because I'm not sure of the health of my client base," Slater says.

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