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Snap Poll: Is Rochester friendly to small business?

Rochester Business Journal
August 22, 2014

RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents give mostly passing grades to the Rochester region for its friendliness to small business and for the ease of launching a small business here.

Equal shares of respondents—28 percent each—gave grades of B and C for friendliness to small business. Thirteen percent gave the region an A, while 9 percent said it deserves a failing grade.

A similar percentage of readers gave the area passing grades for the ease of launching a small business. The plurality—29 percent each—gave out Bs and Cs. Nearly a quarter of respondents gave a grade of D. Nine percent each gave grades of A and F.

This week’s poll was patterned on the Small Business Friendliness Survey, conducted annually by in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. More than 12,000 owners of businesses with 500 or fewer employees are surveyed and asked to rate their city and state on a range of factors including regulations, tax code, health and safety, training and networking programs, and zoning.

This year, ranked 82 cities. Rochester earned a grade of B for its overall friendliness to small business, best in New York. And it received an A- for ease of starting a small business—ranking fifth nationwide.

“It is critical to the economic health of every city and state to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment,” said Dane Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, in a statement accompanying the release of the third annual report. “Policymakers put themselves in the best position to encourage sustainable growth and long-term prosperity by listening to the voices of small-business owners themselves.”

Nearly 350 readers participated in this week’s Snap Poll, conducted Aug. 18 and 19. Of those, 58 percent own or co-own a business in the Rochester region that has 500 or fewer employees.

What grade would you give the Rochester region for its friendliness to small business?

A: 13%  B:  28%  C:  28%  D:  23%  F:  9%

In terms of the ease of starting a small business, what grade would you give the Rochester region?
A:  9%  B:  29%  C:  29%  D:  24%  F:  9%

Do you own or co-own a business in the Rochester region with 500 or fewer employees?
Yes:  58%  No:  42%
Rochester offers entrepreneurs the best asset needed for success: an engaged, educated client base willing to spend money on value and quality. I can attest to this area’s friendliness toward small businesses because I started my own here nearly six years ago. Although I moved from New York City and had no network to speak of, I found an incredibly warm community deeply committed to supporting local businesses. I tell everyone that I can’t imagine finding as much success or being as happy to serve the community as I am right here!
—Mike Bergin, president,
Chariot Learning

When talking with friends in places like Florida and Texas, banks and government offices are falling over to help you. Here, it’s definitely “the only people the banks lend to are those who don’t need it,” and government treats you like the enemy. I watch all of Cuomo’s “open for business” ads and laugh.
—Bob Sarbane

Unless you are large enough to buy influence, this city is terrible for small business.
—Devin Michaels, Chili

Thirty years ago, I founded the Rochester Research Group, and for the past three decades we have been thriving here. For a business like ours—providing qualitative and quantitative market research and evaluation for organizations large and small, corporate and not-for-profit—the Rochester area has been a wonderful home base. Over the years, perhaps half of our work has been done for clients within this region, the other half for clients across the U.S. and beyond. While we have done projects for global companies like AT&T, GE, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Frito-Lay, and BlueCross BlueShield of Vermont, our favorite projects have been those that have helped Rochester’s own organizations to grow and thrive. Our taxes are certainly higher than those in other states, but the quality of life here is significantly better than in the cities that others envy. Try dealing with the rush-hour traffic in places like Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, D.C. and the entire metro New York City area—or finding a beautiful home you can actually afford in any of those communities. I will always be grateful to Bausch & Lomb for recruiting me back in 1979 and bringing me to Rochester to be part of their strategic planning team. I have been here ever since and hope to be here forever.
—Jocelyn Goldberg-Schaible, president, Rochester Research Group

With our property and school taxes, New York State is not friendly to any business—large or small, public or private, service or manufacturing; it does not matter. If you want businesses that already exist in this state to grow, we must slash these taxes. If you want to keep these businesses here, we must slash these taxes. If you want people who live here now to start a business, we must slash these taxes. If you want other firms in other states and countries to move here, we must slash taxes. Hell, if you want residents to not move out of state, you must slash taxes. Our 2 percent tax “cap” is ridiculous. What we desperately need is 35 percent to 50 percent tax cuts, just so we can compete with other, more favorable, lower-tax states. Will these increases ever end?
—Todd Westman

After coming here in 1968 and having helped build two successful businesses, I have nothing but high praise for the Rochester region’s acceptance, cooperation and sustained loyalty to small business!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

Rochester is best at starting pizza parlors and restaurants. Failure rate is high among this type of business. Rochester is also good at tech startups with mixed results due largely to failure to gain critical mass and lack of social attractions for the best and brightest; witness a city on a river, a canal and a lake that has routinely ignored these resources, leaving them to be viewed from expressway overpasses or a 100-yard-long lake boardwalk. Grade: C+.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

The city of Rochester is raising costs for small business from property taxes and fees for municipal parking to fees for services such as trash removal. Increasing the financial burden for businesses to operate does not create an entrepreneur-friendly environment.
—Peter J. Gregory, Rochester

8/22/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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