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Idaho receives A+ for business friendliness, yet policymakers see some deficiencies

Idaho receives A+ for business friendliness, yet policymakers see some deficiencies

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
April 23, 2013
[post_thumbnail]Sen. Michelle Stennett believes better education is key to growing a strong workforce.

According to a recent national survey, Idaho has earned an overall grade of A+ for small business “friendliness.” Despite the good news, both business advocates and policymakers in the Gem State remain cautious, and continue to call for changes.

“It’s good news that Idaho received a superior rating, but we should not over-interpret the results,” commented Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, to IdahoReporter.com. The report, “Small Business Friendliness Survey,” was published jointly by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Thumbtack.com, a San Francisco-based online business marketplace.

The survey ranks all 50 states, with Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and Rhode Island among the worst, and Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Texas and Idaho ranking the best.

In the document, Idaho receives a No. 1 rating among the states for its “training and networking programs” and for its limited business licensing regulations. The two worst grades for Idaho—a pair of A- grades—were issued for its environmental regulations and business zoning requirements.

“Although Idaho’s existing small businesses seem to like what we have to offer, what about those who have decided to relocate or to not come here at all?” Burgoyne asks. “To grow our economy we must stay several steps ahead of the challenges which will confront our existing businesses so they don’t leave us, and we must find out what it will take to attract new businesses to our state.”

While Burgoyne juxtaposes existing Idaho businesses with those that operate outside the state, at least one county policymaker views the matter differently.

“From the vantage point of being a service-based economy, Idaho is, perhaps, business friendly,” said county commissioner Jim Chmelik, a Republican from Idaho County. “But from a manufacturing standpoint, I don’t think we are business friendly at all, at least not in our county. One does not operate an entire economy on service-based businesses, you have to manufacture. But our access to natural resources is so restricted that loggers can’t log, and sheep and cattle ranchers don’t have adequate grazing rights. Because of government regulations, we can’t fully utilize our workforce, and that is not business friendly.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, from rural Blaine County, was not surprised about the new survey results for Idaho, but still has concerns about education in the state.

“At the beginning of this past legislative session, Director Sayer (Jeff Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce) unveiled some very promising statistics that demonstrate how Idaho has become more business friendly over the past couple of years,” she told IdahoReporter.com. “I think business friendliness varies according to region. Our big challenge in Blaine County is an educational component, and creating a skilled workforce.”

Yet one business advocate in Idaho decries how the survey only gives consideration to small businesses. “Idaho does do well for business in general, but I don't think there is a distinction between large and small business,” said Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. “What is good for large business is good for small business. Idaho encourages economic opportunity.”

LaBeau, who lobbied the Legislature earlier this year to completely eliminate the state’s personal business property tax, is unmoved by Idaho’s relatively high grade for tax friendliness. “It’s still a bad tax no matter how you slice it,” he said, noting that the personal business property tax was modestly scaled back by the Legislature this year but still remains mostly intact.

The results of the 2013 Kauffman Foundation/Thumbtack.com small business friendliness survey can be viewed HERE.

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