Thumbtack is out with its regular survey of small businesses’ feelings about their prospects and the business friendliness of their states, and as one might expect, Rhode Island doesn’t do very well. It’s one of four states with an F for business friendliness (the others being Connecticut, Illinois, and California), and it’s one of five states in which small business owners don’t have generally positive feelings (the others being Maine, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Kansas). Of those five, though, Rhode Island businesses’ “sentiment” was last in the nation.
Where Rhode Island businesses think their state is actually business friendly is the “ease of hiring.” Although that’s an area in which politicians frequently promise assistance — up to and including transforming the state to make Rhode Islanders become the employees that some businesses want — it makes sense that employees would be readily available in a state that continues with minimal job growth. Notably, the area in which small businesses have the most negative feelings is that of recent hires, suggesting that they don’t feel they’d have much difficulty hiring, but they haven’t had to do so.
The handful of business-owner comments provided on the Web site are telling. A Wakefield florist chalks the problem up to the fact “the economy here has not recovered as of yet,” but others have more targeted complaints. A handyman in Greene says that “there are high taxes on everything and you only get breaks if you hire illegal workers.” A Providence caterer complains that the state doesn’t pay any attention to very small businesses and that the high taxes don’t cover many services that they actually use (other than roads), while the licensing regime is labyrinthine and “each state department thinks that they have to be notified first, so you get sent in circles.”
Perhaps a Cumberland Web designer hits the target closest to its root cause: “Many of our state legislators are long-time union hacks or government-entrenched cronies, so they don’t have the faintest idea about running a business, and their legislation reflects this.”