With U.S. oil prices hovering around $83 a barrel—and trying to bounce off lows not seen in years—business owners are welcoming lower energy costs as ventures, large and small, grapple with a variety of pressures including higher expenses for health care and wages. Plus, lower fuel prices could translate to more spending by consumers—just in time for the holiday shopping season.
The recent national average for gasoline—a big cost for many businesses—was $3.14 for a gallon of regular fuel, according to AAA. That's a new 2014 low, according to AAA.
Gregory Smith is founder and president of Energy Optimizers, USA. Based in Tipp City, Ohio, the company provides energy-efficiency solutions for both businesses and government groups. Energy costs are a major concern for clients.
"It's at the core of what we do," Smith said. "If they [our clients] can reduce what they pay to utility companies, they can put more back into their businesses."
Smith shared his comments at Inc. 5000, a gathering of small-business owners in Phoenix this week.
Lower operational costs always are welcome, says Jesse Dundon, founder of Hathway, an agency devoted to Web design and digital strategy in San Luis Obispo, California.
"If energy prices continue to fall, it's going to decrease our operational costs and the servers that we pay for through Amazon," Dundon said. "As we grow, energy costs do represent a big portion of our expenses," he said.
Many entrepreneurs feel the same way.
Energy costs are one of the top three business expenses for 35 percent of small businesses, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
The primary energy cost for 38 percent of smaller firms is operating vehicles. One-third of small businesses cited heating and cooling costs, and one-fifth cited operating equipment, according to the NFIB.