Columbus Grades Down on Annual Small Business Friendliness Survey

Photo by Walker Evans.

For the fifth year in a row, Thumbtack.com released its annual Small Business Friendliness Survey measuring how state and public policies affect an individual’s ability to start, operate and grow a business.

Grades for Columbus continue to waver, with the city’s rank for Overall Friendliness falling from an ‘A-‘ in 2015 to a ‘B’ in 2016. The city’s mark for Ease of Starting a Business also went down over a letter grade from ‘A’ in 2015 to ‘B-‘ in 2016.

The biggest shift came in Columbus’ grade in Training & Networking Programs. After two years of ‘A+’ rankings, they city’s grades fell to a ‘D.’ Thumbtack Economist Lucas Puente says a shift in awareness is largely responsible for the decrease.

“In 2015, 39 percent of our respondents in Columbus indicated that their state or local government offered helpful training or networking programs for small business owners,” Puente says. “This was 45 percent better than the national average. In 2016, this figure for Columbus fell to 23 percent, 18 percent worse than this year’s national average.”

However, those that did participate in training and networking programs were more satisfied. In 2015, 13 percent of Columbus participants had a negative or neutral experience. In 2016, only one percent of columbus participants recorded a negative or neutral experience.

“So the message for policymakers is clear: offer more training programs; when they’re used, people love them,” Puente says. 

Other improvements for Columbus included a slightly better outlook on Ease of Hiring, up to a ‘B-‘ from a ‘C+’ and higher marks for Licensing and Environmental regulations, both ‘A-‘ grades.

The city’s overall grades include:

  • Overall Friendliness: B
  • Ease of Starting a Business: B-
  • Ease of Hiring: B-
  • Regulations: B
  • Health & Safety: B-
  • Employment, Labor & Hiring: B
  • Tax Code: B-
  • Licensing: A-
  • Environmental: A-
  • Zoning: B-
  • Training & Networking Programs: D

Thumbtack.com also keeps tabs on the monthly sentiment of business owners in Columbus. Overall sentiment in Central Ohio remains on the slightly positive side. Looking at what businesses rank as their top problems as compared to a year ago shows that headway has been made on past issues, but replaced by a new set of problems. Acquiring New Customers was the top problem for nearly half of Columbus survey respondents, followed by competition from both businesses overseas and other small businesses.

Concerns about uncertain economic conditions are down 17 percent from the previous year, cost/quality of labor concerns are down 14 percent, and concerns over access to credit are down nine percent.

At a state level, Ohio’s grades for Overall Friendliness and Ease of Starting a Businesses stayed the same at a ‘B.’ Ease of Hiring saw a full letter grade rise from a ‘C-‘ to a ‘B-.’ Many other marks saw slight shifts, adding or subtracting a plus or minus.

The state’s overall grades include:

  • Overall Friendliness: B
  • Ease of Starting a Business: B
  • Ease of Hiring: B-
  • Regulations: B-
  • Health & Safety: B-
  • Employment, Labor & Hiring: B
  • Tax Code: B
  • Licensing: B+
  • Environmental: B-
  • Zoning: B+
  • Training & Networking Programs: A

Additional information on survey results for Columbus is available here, and for Ohio, here.