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N.Y.'s small firms see room for improvement

Rochester Business Journal
July 13, 2012

Just how friendly is New York to small business?
According to local entrepreneurs themselves, things could be better. The National Small Business Survey, conducted in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is a national report card of how friendly states and cities are to entrepreneurs and job creators. This survey is different than other indexes that attempt to rank the best and worst places to do business in the United States because it goes directly to the source: small-business owners and managers themselves.
While New York was in the top 21 for both cost of hiring an additional employee and for its publicity of training programs for small-business owners, it ranked in the bottom five states for overall small-business friendliness with a grade of D. New York City fared slightly better than the state as a whole, although not by much, garnering a D+ for overall small-business friendliness.
In particular, small-business owners found New York's regulations burdensome, whether for employment or licensing or zoning, and they also cited the tax code as a hurdle for their companies. As one entrepreneur in Oneida put it: "Taxes are incredibly high, very bureaucratic, and expensive, and it's time consuming to follow all their regulations, environmentally restrictive, and zoning restrictive." The sector that is hit hardest by these regulations is the home-improvement industry, where business owners were 25 percent less likely than entrepreneurs in other industries to rate New York as supportive or very supportive of small business.
While some might jump to the conclusion that less is best and use this survey as a platform to advocate for lower taxes or fewer regulations, the results were more nuanced than that. Our survey found that the states and cities that rated best were not necessarily those with the lowest tax rates or fewest rules. Instead, they were regions with coherent and consistently enforced licensing requirements and those that provided well-publicized training and networking programs-areas where New York failed to excel.
The message nationwide was resounding: Small-business owners don't necessarily want more or less government; they want smarter, more efficient government. It's clear from our survey that there is an important role local governments can play in equipping and empowering entrepreneurs while removing some of the more burdensome hurdles to job creation.
One technician put it quite succinctly: "New York is a very hard state to advance a small business in. I would say a lot more attention should be put on small businesses to change the outcome of small business success in New York State."
New York's small businesses have spoken out-will their elected officials listen?

Sander Daniels is co-founder of, a website from which you can hire help from local, pre-screened businesses.7/13/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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