As the U.S. economy and stock market have picked up since the depths of the Great Recession, the experiences of small-business owners have been mixed. Main Street largely is on the fence about the near-term outlook and lending activity is far from robust, a trend called out by everyone from community banks to Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
Now with the 2016 election looming, debate over Main Street's prospects is only likely to intensify. Big issues weigh on entrepreneurs including the fight for a higher, national minimum wage, health-care costs, taxes and the credit markets among other key topics.
"A big problem throughout the Great Recession that continues today is overall access to capital," said Tim Reynolds, chair of the nonpartisan National Small Business Association and owner of Tribute, a small software company in Ohio.
A key reading on Main Street is the monthly optimism index from the National Federation of Independent Business. The March index, the most recent data available, fell to 95.2—the lowest reading since June 2014. "Overall the economy will keep moving forward, but more like a turtle than a hare," according to Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB's chief economist. (Tweet This)