Entrepreneurs give Charleston a B grade for business friendliness in survey

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published July 2, 2014

Columbia earned the highest overall business friendliness score in South Carolina, beating Charleston and Greenville, according to a Thumbtack survey (.pdf) released this week.

More than 12,600 entrepreneurs rated the three S.C. cities, along with 79 other cities in 38 states for the 2014 Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey.

Charleston earned a B grade overall for its friendliness toward small business and was given an A for the friendliness of its health and safety regulations. Charleston’s small businesses were the second-most-pessimistic in the country about their prospects for bringing on new employees during the next year, the survey said.

The Holy City received a B-minus for environmental regulations and a C for zoning regulations.

A landscaper from Charleston wrote in the survey that the government should consolidate or reduce the number of business licenses that are needed.

“Right now, I am supposed to have business licenses for seven different towns and cities and three counties, all within about a 30-mile radius,” the landscaper wrote.

Charleston’s training and networking programs for small businesses were just shy of being rated the worst in the nation, according to the survey.

“After a two-month survey of thousands of small-business owners nationwide, Charleston’s small-business community has given us an outstanding snapshot of where the city rates nationwide,” Jon Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack, said in a statement. “Creating a business climate that is welcoming to small, dynamic businesses is more important than ever, and listening to Charleston’s small-business community can help policymakers better understand how to do this.”

Columbia earned an A-plus for the ease of starting a business, an A-minus for its overall friendliness to small businesses and a D for ease of hiring, the survey said.

“Business owners in Columbia reported the third-strongest revenue growth in the country over the past 12 months,” the survey said.

Columbia earned a B for overall regulations, health and safety regulations and zoning regulations. It received a C for training and networking.

Greenville was rated last in the nation when it came to the ease of obtaining health insurance and was one of the worst places in the country when it came to preparedness for the Affordable Care Act, rating 69th out of the 82 cities examined. It was also one of the worst cities in the country for hiring new workers, the survey said.

But Greenville received an A-plus for labor laws, zoning regulations and its tax code. Overall friendliness in Greenville was ranked a B because of low marks it earned on hiring, starting a new business and the accessibility of training and networking programs, according to the survey.

South Carolina earned a B-plus for its overall friendliness to small business and had the sixth-friendliest regulations in the country, the survey said.

The survey’s top-rated cities overall were Colorado Springs, Colo., Boise City, Idaho, Austin, Texas, Louisville, Ky., and Houston. The lowest-rated cities were Sacramento, Calif., Providence, R.I., Buffalo, N.Y., Bridgeport, Conn., and San Diego.

San Francisco-based Thumbtack completed the survey in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

“It is critical to the economic health of every city and state to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment,” Dane Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, said in a statement. “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.”

Entrepreneur rankings and grades for S.C. and select cities


Location
S.C.
Charleston
Columbia
Greenville

Overall friendliness
13/B+
34/B
15/A-
33/B

Ease of starting a business
21/C+
51/C
7/A+
49/C+

Ease of hiring
29/C-
27/B+
70/D
80/F

Overall regulations
6/A
24/B+
35/B
9/A

Health
& safety
4/A+
9/A
29/B
14/A

Employment, labor & hiring
6/A
22/B+
43/C+
7/A+

Tax code
5/A
25/B+
45/C+
7/A+

Source: 2014 Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey

Reach staff writer Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker on Twitter.

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