By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—According to the Fifth Annual Small Business Friendliness Survey, Alabama received a D+ for its overall business friendliness, dropping from its B grade just a year ago.
The survey conducted between April 13, 2016 and May 6, 2016, polled 12,169 skilled professionals from across the United States, operating across hundreds of categories, including as electricians, music teachers, wedding planners, wellness professionals, and more. The study asked business owners about the policies of toward small business, in each state, as well as the overall level of support in their community.
In 2015, Alabama was ranked number 17 in the nation. However, this year the State fell in the bottom 5. Alabama was the lowest ranked state in the South; Tennessee and Georgia were both in the top 5.
The State’s D+ was driven by disappointing grades for ease of starting a business, and health and safety laws. The survey found starting a small business in the State was difficult which lead to getting an F in ease of starting a business.
While Gov. Bentley, former Speaker Mike Hubbard, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and others have touted the State’s ability to recruit big business, the same cannot be said for small business. The State has been able to recruit some marquee companies, but only by giving massive incentive programs and tax breaks.
According to the survey, “Skilled professionals who found their governments to be friendly for small businesses, were most likely to rate them highly on licensing requirements, tax regulations, and labor and hiring rules. These policies have consistently ranked among the top concerns for businesses since 2012.”
The State received passing grades in the categories of ease in hiring, regulation, tax codes and others, but entrepreneurs believed the State was lacking in its approach to small business.
Workforce training has been a stated priority from state leadership with hundreds of millions in tax dollars going to train workers for a handful of mega companies. However small business owners gave the state only a C grade in training and networking.
Currently, the State is reeling from public corruption and scandal at the highest levels of government. This month, Speaker Mike Hubbard was found guilty of 12 felony counts of public corruption and Gov. Bentley is under investigation by state and federal law enforcement. Even the State’s business lobby, BCA, was indicated in Hubbard’s criminal actives.
Alabama’s slide in the Thumbtack Poll is just the latest in a round of bad press that threatens to become even worse.