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by Kim Leonard

For Robert Moore, buying and starting a franchised business was a lot like his first skydive when he turned 40 a year ago.

“A tad frightening, but exhilarating,” said Moore, who is lining up customers for the Spectrum Home Services business that he and his wife, Amy, run out of their McCandless home.

Sometimes, he said, “You just have to jump, so we did.”

Professionals who have lost their jobs or who feel like they’re going nowhere working for a corporation tend to consider investing in a business franchise when times are tough. That happened after the recession of nearly a decade ago, when numbers of franchise establishments rose by an average 5.6 percent a year from 2001 to 2005.

The growth rate since has slowed. And despite the current recession and high unemployment rates, the International Franchise Association forecasts that the number of franchises will decline this year by 1.2 percent, or 10,000 businesses — largely because of a scarcity of financing available to start a store or local service business.

“Once credit is available again, we look to see increases — but in good times or bad, the franchise industry outpaces non-franchised business growth,” said Alisha Harrison of the association, headquartered in Washington.

Moore lost his job as a field service manager for water-quality equipment maker Hach Co. through a restructuring in November. He’d been with the Colorado-based company for more than 20 years.

After applying for some other jobs, Moore started to look at franchises that would suit his background in human resources and prove successful in the Pittsburgh area.

The Moores settled on Spectrum and its array of home maintenance and personal services for senior citizens, families and real estate companies that own vacant homes, such as those acquired through foreclosures.

Spectrum charged the couple a $32,500 franchise fee. Moore estimates they’ve invested $100,000 in all so far, including cleaning and payroll equipment and a van with the Spectrum logo.

He and Amy, a former coordinator with Moms Club International, run the business from the home office he used with his prior employer. They’re hiring a few workers, and plan to lease warehouse space as the business grows. Spectrum, based in Sandy, Utah, was founded in 2000 and has 30 offices in 20 states.

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