Professional services sector weathers recession, local businesses grow

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The professional and business services sector has been well-insulated from the recession, according to local businesses and numbers from the Georgia Department of Labor.

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Standing from left, Leonard P. Zimmerman, Jr., Alex Wier, Daniel Stewart and Steven Uhles gather around the desk of Daniel Stewart, seated, at the Wierhouse in Augusta Friday afternoon October 21, 2011.     MICHAEL HOLAHAN/staff   MICHAEL HOLAHAN
Standing from left, Leonard P. Zimmerman, Jr., Alex Wier, Daniel Stewart and Steven Uhles gather around the desk of Daniel Stewart, seated, at the Wierhouse in Augusta Friday afternoon October 21, 2011. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/staff

Employment statistics show there are currently more than 31,000 jobs in the professional and business services sector, up from last year’s 30,400. This category, which includes jobs such as accounting or marketing, has shown more growth in the past year than any other.

“The people that actually do something while their competition just sits there and counts pennies are the ones that are coming out on top,” said Alex Wier, the creative director at Wierhouse, a creative services firm in Augusta that offers advertising, graphic design and marketing strategy.

Wier and co-owner Daniel Stewart said their business has experienced 350 percent growth in the past three years. Smart business owners, they say, know a down economy is a good time to invest time and resources in beefing up their brand and message.

“You’ve got the time to do it,” Wier said. “It’s difficult to focus when you’re worried about stocking the shelves and making enough widgets.”

Because of the tough times, Wierhouse has picked up clients from New York and other large markets who are looking for high quality work without the big city price, Stewart said.

“To those people, we’re a value, and we have a good enough product to compete,” he said.

Mike Hall, a senior partner at accounting firm Hall, Hall & Associates calls his industry “recession proof.”

“They need us just as badly in the bad times as they do in the good times,” he said.

The firm has experienced continued growth, he said, and has seen increased business consultation and fraud counseling.

Hall, a certified forensic accountant, says he has seen the number of fraud cases spike.

“Unfortunately, fraud increases when the economy is bad,” he said. “In hard times, people get desperate.”

In addition to working with investigations, Hall offers fraud checks for businesses where he inspects bookkeeping systems to see how fraud-proof they are.

A recession is a good time for businesses to re-evaluate the way they work, he said.

“The smart ones are coming to us to help them find ways to make it to the other side,” Hall said.

The down economy has both helped and hurt online tax preparation company, according to director of growth and marketing Darcel Walker.

When fewer people are employed, fewer people have income taxes to prepare, but filing online is a way many people try to save money and Walker said overall, the company has come out ahead.

“People are trying to cut costs,” he said. “However, if they don’t have income, chances are they don’t have anything to file.”

The company has experienced growth each year, Walker said, and Friday it is holding a job fair for the upcoming tax season.

“We’re getting more customers, we’ve grown our employment, and things are really going well,” Walker said.


ABOUT THE SERIES: Last year, The Augusta Chronicle examined four industry sectors to see how they were surviving the economic recovery. Two years after the recession ended, The Chronicle will look into four more sectors: real estate, retail, medicine and professional services. Today’s third part of the four-week series looks at the professional service sector.

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Riverman1 10/24/11 - 07:58 am
You've got to go where the

You've got to go where the money is. Get jobs in what's needed. Don't try to stay in something that's dying.

Taylor B
Taylor B 10/24/11 - 07:11 pm
Let me tell you how well the

Let me tell you how well the European luxury car market is going :(

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