Light at the end of the tunnel

There are few things better when you’re feeling down than having something small go right and brighten up your day.

It could be a phone call from a friend you haven’t heard from in a long time or unsolicited praise from a spouse or colleague. Anything that lifts you up can be the spark needed to get you back on the right track.

The U.S. economy is no different.

Recently, I’ve seen positive signals from a variety of businesses, indicating that perhaps we’re finally turning the corner and emerging from The Great Shakeout. Admittedly, I’m no economist, but I am a firm believer that when you string together enough events, it’s hard to discount the power of anecdotal evidence.

Last month, a report by revealed that 32 Internet-sector companies, including the ill-fated Webvan Group Inc., closed its doors in July. While that number may sound high, consider that in June, 58 similar companies went out of business. Thirty-two is the lowest number of closures since September 2000, not long after the first wave of dot-bombs began dragging the economy down with them.

Also in August, reported better than expected second quarter results, including its first profitable quarter to date. The name-your-own-price Internet commerce firm’s shares were trading around $9, a dramatic increase from its January 2001 low of around $1. Industry watchers believe Priceline has right-sized the business and hit upon a formula of how to make money on the Internet.

Closer to home, Mentor-based Ladies & Gentlemen Salon and Day Spa (a 2000 Pillar Award for Community Service winner) recently opened the doors to its new, expanded Brown Institute — a $1.2 million facility. Ed and Nancy Brown’s new 10,000 square-foot school allows the 25-year-old business to offer more students training in the area of salon education.

And finally, a friend who runs an emerging Web-based company in late July landed her first client. It was validation of the firm’s business model that uses technology to solve traditional bricks-and-mortar problems.

Though none of these examples proves the economy is definitely on the upswing, they certainly indicate that for some, the bad times are in the rear view mirror. And, they show the power of innovation and how dedication to a continued search for new smart ideas will lead to success no matter what the market conditions.

Later this month, SBN Magazine will honor 12 business leaders at the 2001 Innovation in Business Conference, sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Andersen, Nextel, Divine, LaSalle Bank and Hughie’s Audio Visual. These honorees represent some of the most dynamic ideas in Northeast Ohio, and they are shaping the very way we do business –today and in the future.

You can read the stories of these honorees in a special pull-out section that begins on page S1. And, as the economy continues its slow march forward, perhaps next year, your business will join them.

Dustin Klein ([email protected]) is editor of SBN Magazine.