WASHINGTON – Home-based businesses and “university spin-offs” were some of the fastest growing and best known small businesses in 2003. According to a just-released federal government study from the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration titled The Small Business Economy, 2004, small businesses led the way in improving the nation’s economy. The comprehensive report examines the role small business plays in the economy. It focuses on economic trends and indicators, regulatory issues at the federal, state, and local levels, innovation and technology transfer, as well as federal government procurement and small business financing data. Among the report’s highlights were in the second half of 2003, consumer and business confidence returned and the economy shifted into higher gear. Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 8.2% in the fourth quarter; the number of employer firms increased by 0.3% over the year; and unincorporated self-employed businesses increased by 3.7% during the year as well. Home-based businesses made up 53% of the small business population and serve as incubators for many growing businesses, according to the report. They still “face a unique regulatory environment that can restrain their expansion and growth” including such “regulatory barriers” as “complex IRS rules on home office deductions and the complicated test for determining independent contractor status.” Local zoning laws may also discriminate against home-based businesses, the report found. Some of the nation’s best-known companies are university spin-offs, the report revealed. Current research suggests that university spin-offs can have a dramatic effect on the economy of a region. These effects have been enhanced by government polices such as the Bayh-Dole Act, which gave universities the rights to inventions derived from federally funded research. A separate SBA Office of Advocacy study titled Entrepreneurship and Business Ownership In the Veteran Population, found that 22% of veterans are either purchasing or starting a new business, or considering purchasing or starting one. More than one-third of both “new veteran-entrepreneurs” and current veteran business-owners had also gained skills from their active duty service that were directly relevant to business ownership. -msamaad@cutimes.com