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Indiana 50th on small business

August 3, 2018

Numerous studies in recent years have ranked Indiana one of the best states for business.

But it seems that famed Hoosier hospitality doesn’t extend to businesses of all sizes. In a report released this week by ValuePenguin, Indiana ranked 50th in the U.S. in small-business friendliness.

Justin Song, a senior research analyst, crunched numbers from the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau to produce the list that ranks Montana, Rhode Island and Florida as the best three states for small business.

Indiana finished last, with Delaware and Mississippi placing 49th and 48th, respectively.

“It’s very, very close,” Song said of the final order. But, he added, gross state product data from 2016′s second quarter : the most recent official numbers available : tipped the balance in Delaware’s favor over Indiana.

ValuePenguin is a global consumer and small-business research group from New York that studies and recommends financial products for consumers and small-business owners. Song, who focuses on small-business lending, previously worked at IBM and Bank of America Merrill-Lynch. He holds an economics degree from New York University.

Song’s clients are interested in which states support small businesses because the internet allows entrepreneurs to be mobile, setting up shop where they’ll receive the most support, he said.

John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, on Thursday declined to comment specifically on results of a report he hadn’t seen. But, he said, the region is committed to supporting entrepreneurs in various ways.

The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, Start Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Urban Enterprise Association, elevate northeast indiana and its recently launched Farnsworth Fund micro-grants were among the efforts that sprang immediately to Sampson’s mind.

The programs he named support entrepreneurs through a combination of access to space, expert advice and capital.

“All of that energy is focused on improving the climate for start-up entities,” Sampson said. “What we’re doing today, we have learned from some of the best practices in the country.”

Some of those efforts are fairly recent. A 2017 study of the Fort Wayne community gave it a 1 on a scale of 1 to 7 for entrepreneurial ecosystems.

A 7 on the scale represents the most advanced or mature environment.

The score was given by Techstars, which bills itself as a worldwide entrepreneur network based in Boulder, Colorado.

Sampson said investing in innovation matters, but the efforts don’t come with guarantees of success.

Mark Troutman, co-owner of The Tube Car Wash, said the partners didn’t encounter any particular challenge when opening the business in January.

“Nothing comes immediately to mind,” he said. “There’s nothing that city or county officials did that made the process harder than it needed to be.”

The car wash, off Illinois Road just east of the I-69 interchange, is a locally owned franchise location of a national company. The operation employs 14.

Keller Williams, a national real estate firm, has also spawned a locally owned office. Leslie Ferguson, an agent with the local operation, is also one of seven owners.

Qualifying for the Keller Williams brand was the most challenging part of launching the business, Ferguson said. The company requires that agents working under its name exceed minimum sales volumes.

The local office is affiliated with 47 agents and employs three full-time support staffers, she said.

Fort Wayne’s relatively low cost of living allowed the firm to buy a downtown office at Calhoun Street and Washington Boulevard.

During the process of renovating the former offices of Catalyst Marketing Design, the Keller Williams partners have received encouragement and offers for pro bono services from some politicians and fellow business owners.

“We are definitely being supported,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson : and Sampson : like to think that when data from this quarter is reviewed a couple years from now, Indiana won’t find itself at the bottom of the list for small-business friendliness.

“It’s almost too easy” to start a business here, Ferguson said. “I probably shouldn’t say that.”

sslater@jg.net

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