Small businesses have long been regarded as the engine of the nation’s economy. This certainly is true in Kern County.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, out of the nation’s 29.6 million businesses, all but 19,000 are small. Lending and contracting programs define a “small business” based on revenues or profits, while the general definition of a “small business” is a firm with fewer than 500 employees. That covers about 99.7 percent of the U.S. companies. But even by a stricter definition that limits companies to 50 employees, “small businesses” constitute the vast majority of the country’s businesses.

Small businesses generate three-fifths of the net new jobs and employ 58 million, or 47.8 percent of all private-sector workers. Nearly all U.S. exporters are small business. And about one in five firms are family-owned, with half being “home-based.”

Small business owners often use personal and family savings to finance start-ups and expansions. The one-year survival rate for small businesses was about 80 percent in 2016. Half survive five years or longer and only one-third survive 10 years or more.

April 29 through May 5 is National Small Business Week. An annual event sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the week focuses attention on the importance of small businesses and the contributions they make to local and national economies. The event also emphasizes the returns realized when consumers, financial institutions and government agencies support job-creating small businesses.

A sampling of the companies being advised by the Small Business Development Center at California State University, Bakersfield, puts faces on the diverse nature of Kern County’s small businesses.

Michael Booker: Consulting for Active Shooter Emergencies LLC

An Army veteran, retired Kern County Sheriff’s Detective Michael Booker’s law enforcement experience spans two decades and includes membership on the county’s SWAT team and service as a sniper. Before being medically retired in 2015, after being shot by an armed fugitive, he was the head instructor for his agency’s active shooting training course. He also worked on special assignments alongside the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, Bureau of Land Management and Secret Service.

In his retirement, Booker turned to the Small Business Development Center for help in establishing his consulting business, Consulting for Active Shooter Emergencies LLC (www.case911.com).

“No longer working in a law enforcement capacity, I wanted to continue providing help to citizens,” Booker explained. “By using my unique skill set and experience, I train and advise business, school and church staffs about how to prepare and respond to an active shooter attack.”

Sarah Haggard: Deluge Consulting

Sarah Haggard jokes about how she loved to play in the mud and water when she was a child growing up in Bakersfield. Haggard now is the founder and president of Deluge Consulting, a firm that develops plans, regulatory compliance strategies and monitoring systems for companies to meet local, state and federal storm water pollution prevention, and erosion and sediment control requirements.

A graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, she worked for a Southern California firm before returning to her hometown of Bakersfield to start up her own company. Haggard is a certified professional in erosion and sediment control, a qualified storm water pollution prevention plan developer and a qualified storm water pollution prevention practitioner.

Rebecca Robinson: She Marine Construction Supply

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protégé program is helping Bakersfield entrepreneur Rebecca Robinson realize her dream of owning a successful small business after her discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps with a disability.

Following her military retirement in 2011, Robison worked for Defense contractor Booz Hamilton, teaching information operations and war fighting to civilian Department of Defense employees. With the assistance of SBDC consultants, Robison has developed business plans, identified resources and been included in the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program.

Robison’s company, She Marine Construction Supply, is a service-disabled veteran/woman-owned, broad spectrum supply company headquartered in Lake Isabella, with offices, a warehouse and pipe yard in Bakersfield and Shafter.

Steven Tibbs: Tibbs Beef Jerky

Steven Tibbs combined a personal need with a nationwide demand to begin his new Bakersfield business, Tibbs Beef Jerky. It’s not easy to begin a food-related business. Quality control and government requirements are complex and demanding. Competition is steep. And marketing and selling are challenging. That’s why Tibbs turned to SBDC consultants for help. Jerky is a lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips and then dried. It can also be made of finely ground meat, mixed with seasonings, and pressed into “meat paste.”

The once 260-pound Army veteran was looking for a healthy snack to change his lifestyle and lose weight. Using co-workers as taste-testers, he came up with jerky varieties with such names as “Not Your Typical Teriyaki,” “Grampas Black Pepper” and “Oh My Spicy Garlic.”

“I started out with a little dehydration unit and made my first batch. It tasted great,” Tibbs recalled. The next year, he used his tax refund check to buy five larger dehydration units to produce about 500 pounds of jerky every two weeks. He now ships his jerky to 45 states and 12 countries.

Kam Hollis: Kamnation Clothing

Kam Hollis recalls as a child how she would “get so excited to go to the fabric store” with her grandmother. That passion led her to earning a degree in fashion design from Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, after graduating from Centennial High School in 2001. She later earned a bachelor of science degree, with a concentration in management, from CSUB.

With a love for retro and vintage clothing, she began her online company, Kamnation Clothing, in 2013 and recently opened Kamnation Clothing Retro Boutique with items available on Etsy.

The Small Business Development Center at CSUB is one of five service centers within the University of California, Central California SBDC Regional Network, which is a partnership between the university and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The center at CSUB assists entrepreneurs and small business owners in Kern, Inyo and Mono counties by providing free consulting, small business training and research. For more information, go to csub.edu/sbdc

Kelly Bearden is the director of the Small Business Development Center at CSU Bakersfield. The opinions expressed are his own.