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Politics

Florida Job Creators Give State Mediocre Grade for Small-Business Friendliness

May 15, 2013 - 6:00pm

Small-business owners may give Gov. Rick Scott high marks for his efforts to create jobs and encourage entrepreneurship, but they believe that even with the governor in their corner, Florida remains a mediocre market when it comes to small-business friendliness.

That's the key finding of the 2013 Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey, commissioned by Thumbtack (an Internet marketplace for various local services) and theEwing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Thumbtack and Ewing surveyed some 640 of Florida's small-business owners in order to measure their subjective appreciation of Florida's business climate.

These business owners gave Florida a grade of C- on overall small-business friendliness, a slight dip from last year's grade of C. That score is based on employers' answers to four questions:

In general, how would you rate your state governments support of small-business owners?

In general, how would you rate your local governments support of small-business owners?

Would you discourage or encourage someone from starting a new business where you live?

How difficult or easy is it to start a business where you live?

Other findings of the survey included:

Respondents gave Florida a B- for overall regulatory friendliness.

Florida's highest grade was a B+ for its business-friendly tax code, and small-business owners noted the relative ease of understanding and filing taxes in the state. Florida also earned a B for the ease of hiring additional employees.

The state earned a 'C' grade for its small-business networking and training programs.

Northeastern Florida ranked as the most business-friendly region in the state, followed by East-Central Florida.

In terms of overall small-business friendliness, Jacksonville was Florida's top major city performer with a B-, while Miami was the state's lowest ranking city, earning a D.

The results are only a measure of employers' subjective thoughts and feelings, but Nathan Allan, who conducted the study and is Thumbtack.com's lead researcher, notes that while the survey did not measure or analyze any objective criteria of business-friendliness, its conclusions should still be taken into account by legislators and policymakers.

Perception to some degree helps shape reality, he tells Sunshine State News. Whether someone starts a business, a lot of that is based on feeling. There can be great opportunities and great resources, but if they are not well-publicized and people don't feel like they're accessible, then [those tools] don't do much good because no one's taking advantage of them.

Asked what Florida could do to alleviate the concerns of small-business owners, Allen points to what he says were two persistent complaints by survey respondents: too many overlapping state and local regulatory schemes, and inconsistent enforcement of those regulations.

People said they felt like a lot of the rules were strict, but not strictly enforced, so there was a penalty for playing by the rules; that was one of the greatest sources of frustration, he explains. People do not want to do what they're supposed to do and then watch someone else skate by without taking any of those measures, and be able to have a cheaper cost of doing business because of it.

A total of 7,766 small-business owners were surveyed across the United States. The study's top ranking states overall were Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Texas; the lowest were Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and Rhode Island.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.

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