LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Small business owners are feeling more optimistic than they have in years, according to several surveys. The reports say revenue is up. Owners are confident in the future of their businesses, and a majority think the U.S. economy will grow this year. What's driving the sunny outlook? Matthew Eastman is the owner of Lickity Splits Ice Cream in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. He was among more than 1,600 people who took part in the National Small Business Association and ZipRecruiter survey. And he joins us now to talk about his business and what he sees coming in the future. Welcome to the program.
MATTHEW EASTMAN: Thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So first of all, sounds delicious. Tell me a little bit about your business.
EASTMAN: My wife and I started a small ice cream factory in 2014, all-natural ice cream or as natural as we could possibly get. We've started developing franchises and bringing in major league sports contracts, like the Tampa Bay Lightning and now the Pittsburgh Pirates themselves for spring training and...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How many employees do you have?
EASTMAN: We have six full-time employees right now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So why are you feeling so optimistic?
EASTMAN: We got hit pretty hard with the recession. And when people aren't making money, they're not spending money.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And they're certainly not eating ice cream.
EASTMAN: And they're not eating ice cream. So the more people make, the more they come down here and vacation from all over the world - general improving in the economy. I think there's a lot of confidence in the new administration that's in there. It seems like it's pro-small business, you know? There's a window manufacturer right next to where we're at, and they are swamped right now. And they say the same thing. It's, you know, people are confident. They're not holding onto their money. They're investing it in the economy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: May I ask you, did you vote for President Trump?
EASTMAN: I didn't vote Democrat or Republican because I just - I'd had enough of the spatting back and forth. I'm prior military, so I support our president no matter who it is. But I didn't like the personalities of it, so I didn't vote for either one of those two.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some of the owners that were surveyed were saying that there were some concerns - cost of health insurance, lack of qualified workers. Well, what are the things that you're concerned about right now that may hold back your business?
EASTMAN: Those two are the biggest things that pinch our businesses. The health insurance is unbelievable. And qualified workers - I think that we need more training programs in our schools and not so much of an emphasis to send our children to college. I mean, not everybody has to go to college. And I think there's too much of an emphasis put on that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So let me ask you - you're feeling this optimism. You feel good about the economy. You like the direction in which things are heading. What does that mean practically speaking? Are you planning to expand?
EASTMAN: Right now we just expanded our business. We doubled the size of it this year. And we're currently working with the Small Business Administration and Economic Development Council and trying to put together a larger-scale manufacturing facility.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We mentioned you didn't vote for Trump. And I know you don't want to get too political, but everything is, especially business. How do you feel about the president's stewardship of the economy now and just generally speaking?
EASTMAN: Honestly, he's a business guy. And putting aside the personality aspect of it - I really don't care for his personality. But I get where he comes from. I don't know. I guess I would vote for him in the future.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Matthew Eastman from Lickity Splits Ice Cream in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., joining us from his factory floor. Thank you very much, Matthew.
EASTMAN: Thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.