Thumbtack, Inc. (a San Francisco based advocate for small businesses and independent professionals) creates and publishes national surveys in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation and Bloomberg. Detailed analysis of the Thumbtack survey conducted each year with The Kauffman Foundation, paints a bright picture for Oklahoma City, which ranks consistently best in almost every one of the 11 categories when it comes to being business friendly.
Straight “A” Student
In their latest 2015 survey, Oklahoma City got straight “A’s” across all but one of the eleven categories. In fact, the city received a rating of A+ in six of those categories:
- Employment, Labor & Hiring
- Health & Safety
- Ease of Starting A Business
- Tax Code
In particular let’s take a look at licensing, which Thumbtack suggests is one of the strongest factors correlating to being business friendly, and for which Oklahoma City garnered an A+ rating.
Thumbtack found that “The complexity, time-cost, and monetary expenditure of obtaining and keeping licenses and permits was the most important issue for small businesses when rating the friendliness of their states.” In their surveys they found that compliance with licensing rules was a common topic and the responses weighted heavily toward the desire for compliance to be less burdensome.
Yet, states and local governments establish license requirements to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. So, there needs to be a balance and Oklahoma City seems to have struck that balance. In some cities and states, the licensing requirements can be quite onerous. That is not the case in Oklahoma City where in many circumstances all that is needed is a valid driver’s license or State issued ID and a copy of your Oklahoma Sales Tax Permit in order to fill out a simple one-page form. Regardless of that simplicity, licensing can at times be a challenge, and to address that challenge and provide support, Oklahoma City has a plethora of resources ready to serve the small-business community.
To facilitate the process, the Oklahoma City also maintains a full-time Small Business Development Center. Its primary purpose is to “provide no-charge advising, workshops, and other assistance to small business owners and entrepreneurs.” Couple this with the fact that numerous small business advocacy groups are located in Oklahoma City, such as a United States Small Business Administration (SBA) office, and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) office.
Both of these federal programs provide start-up businesses with the practical action plans, as well as the education and tools needed to open the doors and create a broad customer base. For those established businesses, they can help pinpoint methods to increase profits and improve employee and customer satisfaction. Having both of these programs maintain offices in the city and thus easily accessible, lessens the burden of trying to go it alone.
Oklahoma City also has a number of business incubators, which are programs designed to support the successful development of small businesses by offering a range of resources and services, managed by incubator specialists, and offered both at the incubator site and through a network of associates. There are three incubators of note in Oklahoma City and nearby Norman, which means that entrepreneurs are not limited to a one-size-fits-all solution.
The Moore-Norman small business incubator facilitates business owners in developing business plans and building their business. They earned the 2013 SBA Oklahoma District and 2014 Journal Record Incubator of the Year Awards and are designed for new and start-up businesses. They maintain office space for their resident companies as well as keeping a qualified and experienced resident staff on hand.
The El Parian small business incubator serves the needs of those looking to develop new retail concepts and those early stage retail businesses needing a place that will nurture their growth. The incubator space offers short-term leases, modular walls for quick expansion, and an affordable point of entry for new business. Ideally located in the super-regional, Plaza Mayor Mall, formerly known as Crossroads Mall, El Parian serves as a marketplace for businesses to test retail concepts with a focus on reducing barriers to entry and providing resources to help create economic development.
The Norman Economic Development Coalition, just outside the city on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, is dedicated to expanding the economic base of the Norman community, by retaining and expanding existing businesses and industries, as well supporting business retention, expansion of locally based employment centers, and assisting in business creation and technology commercialization.