Layoffs at big companies has meant pluses and minuses for small ones, according to a survey by KeyCorp.

Big companies are unleashing a host of talented and expert executives that smaller companies can snap up, but some castoffs use nest eggs to start competing businesses, the survey found.

"Access to qualified labor is difficult, and we wanted to find whether downsizing affects their ability to get new workers," said Sandra Maltby, senior vice president for Cleveland-based KeyCorp.

The findings are from a small-business survey conducted for KeyCorp by Wirthlin Worldwide. By keeping up on industry trends, KeyCorp can find out what to expect in the small-business market and anticipate changes, Ms. Maltby said.

Of 407 small companies responding, 58% agreed that cutbacks by big ones have "resulted in an increased talent pool."

William Dunkelberg, an economics professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said he saw the same dynamic at work.

"A lot of people with a lot of computer skills are out there now," he said. "It's a mechanism for technology transfer."

Those skills are important to small businesses, as tech-savvy businesses tend to grow faster than their counterparts, the survey said.

Fifty-three percent said downsizing has increased outsourcing. And 61% of service companies responding said they saw such openings, compared with 48% of manufacturers and wholesalers.

"One of our country's strengths is that we can move resources very quickly," Mr. Dunkelberg said.

Fifty-six percent of the small businesses surveyed see competition for those bids from start-ups founded by people laid off by larger corporations, the survey said.

"A lot of people who have left companies have been happy to sell their services back to their old employers," Mr. Dunkelberg said.

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