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Survey Says: Albany Not Business-Friendly

NYS Capitol building in Albany

A new study released today gives Albany a “D” for small business friendliness, but do businesses agree?

Thumbtack’s fourth annual Small Business Friendliness Survey is out, but it casts shadows upon the city of Albany, which earned a D overall for small business friendliness, ranking 88th of 95 cities ranked this year. 

Credit thumbtack.com
Jon is Thumbtack's Chief Economist.

Jon Lieber is chief economist for thumbtack.com.     "What this means is that the small businesses we talked to, they told us that the regulatory environment was challenging, they gave regulations a 'C,' they said it was difficult to start a business in Albany. They gave the ease of starting a business a 'D+.' And they said the tax code and labor laws were difficult to understand and comply with. The tax code received a 'D' and the unemployment, labor and hiring, the friendliness of those factors, received an 'F.'"

Albany's overall grade slid downward.    "Albany got a 'C' in 2014 and a 'D' in 2015, so it's slipping a little bit, still kind of below average. Not really in the bottom tier - they didn't get an 'F,' which is good news, but definitely room for improvement."

Albany's worst scores included an F for labor regulations as well as an F as a location small business owners would encourage other entrepreneurs to start a new business.    "New York state doesn't do really well in this survey. It's in the bottom five of all the states we look at. Year to year, California, Illinois, Rhode Island and New York tend to be in the bottom five. They have very challenging environments for businesses, small businesses especially."

Anthony Capece, the Executive Director of Albany-based Central District Management Association, Inc., doesn't think Albany should be singled out, but concedes it is difficult to navigate all of the many things required to open a business.    "From Buffalo, to Plattsburgh, to Albany, to White Plains, New York, I think all of the things required to open a business are pretty much the same. In Albany, we've seen here in my association area, a lot of new businesses start up from folks coming up from other countries. And sure there are some big struggles in getting a business opened.  But we're also in a place that's busier, bigger and has a lot more overhead to manage, so there are overhead costs that are gonna be a little higher, so I don't know if you can single out the city of Albany. When I look at this survey and question a 'C' or a low grade or a 'B,' an 'A' - it's very difficult to sort of put it in perspective."

New York City and Syracuse scored highest, earning 'C minus' averages.    "Rochester got a 'D+' and Buffalo got an 'F.'  Even in the states with the most challenging business environments there are thousands or tens of thousands or even millions of successful entrepreneurs who've gone to work for themselves and are doing great."

Lieber says for low-ranking cities, all is not lost:   "In states like New York and in cities like Albany, the two biggest things you can do to improve yourself are provide opportunities for training and networking and the the second thing is focus on licensing issues and the tax code. Make sure that tax compliance is easy to understand and the rules are clear and simple to follow."

Thumbtack sampled 17,633 small businesses of 5 or fewer employees across the United States.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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