By Kevin Joseph Ryan
Between November of last year and January of 2012, Thumbtack.com conducted a survey of over 6,000 small business owners as to their opinions of their states’ attitudes and climate toward small business. Let’s start off by saying Vermont…well, didn’t do all that well. In fact, we were one of only four states to earn a grade of F. Oh-oh. Looks likes summer school for the State Legislature.
The survey, conducted by Thumbtack.com was produced with support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Thumbtack.com as a website acts as an online aggregator for potential clients to contact and rate business professionals, while the Kauffman Foundation cites it’s mission as “advancing entrepreneurship”. Full results can be seen at www.thumbtack.com/survey.
Thumbtack.com felt that given the current recession and unemployment rates, that it was necessary to ask the business community directly about their feelings towards each state’s handling of the environment for small business, and, as we said, Vermont State Government under Governor Peter Shumlin (D) and House Speaker Shap Smith (D) does not seem to be well-loved. Besides Vermont, only California, Hawaii and Rhode Island earned a failing grade overall.
Due to small sample size in certain states, only 45 of 50 were rated by the survey and Vermont came in dead last in terms of the friendliness of both environmental and zoning regulations. While Vermonters do tend to see environmental conservation as important in general, this certainly does not speak well for the future of development of jobs here in the state.
The Green Mountain State faired only slightly better in terms of ease of starting a small business and overall friendliness towards small business at 43rd and 44th, respectively, earning an F in both categories. We did, however, score a D grade for regulatory friendliness towards small business and in regards to our tax code, coming in at number 41 in both.
One ranking area where Vermont did quite well is in the area of publicizing both training and networking programs for small business. Vermont came in third for promoting training for small or potential small business owners and got an A Grade, and was given a B for promoting business networking. We always did do well in Government Programs class.
In terms of the current health of business in Vermont, the Thumbtack Survey did not offer a grade, but ranked Vermont at 39th in the nation. The future does not look particularly bright, as small business owners ranked Vermont 33rd for future economic health. This is not surprising given uncertainty regarding the current status of either the State’s health insurance policies, especially if Obamacare is found to be unconstitutional and an increase of between 19%- 39% power costs if the Vermont Yankee Plant is forced to close.
Although women found Vermont slightly move supportive of small business than men, they rated the State as much harder to start a business than men did, by 55%. Women were also far less likely to feel their businesses were doing well than men did, and were far less optimistic regarding the business climate a year from now.
Politically speaking, both Conservatives and Independent voters found Vermont to be less supportive of the business community here than Liberals did. When the report card that counts comes in after the elections this November, those in charge of Montpelier and the Statehouse may have wished they studied a little harder for the exams.