“’Be careful about moving to Ohio,’ I hear it time after time,” he says. “There is a perception out there that Ohio is difficult to work with.”
James Timonere, executive director of the Ashtabula Area Chamber of Commerce, says entrepreneurs who consider Ohio face challenges on both the state and local levels. He says local employers wishing to expand have encountered delays of two to three years as a result of red tape and roadblocks thrown up by state agencies. Even minor local regulations that control issues like the size and placement of signs can be roadblocks to development and expansion.
Roy Bean, who provides consulting at the Small Business Development centers in both Ashtabula and Lake counties, says the state does have particularly burdensome taxes, especially when it comes to Workers’ Compensation, a tax that kicks in as soon as a business owner hires his first employee.
Carin Rockind, vice president of marketing and communications with Team NEO, the 16-county marketing group for Northeast Ohio, says Ohio’s business-unfriendly atmosphere is a misperception that is stronger within the region than outside.
“Honestly, we don’t hear that a lot (from prospects looking to locate business in Ohio),” she says. “Not as much as we think it ourselves. Those outside the region are more positive about it than those inside.”
In addition, Ohio’s ongoing tax reform, which will be completed in 2010, will give the state the best tax environment for business in the Midwest, Rockind says. The state’s new administration is much more business friendly, she says.
“The lieutenant governor is doing everything possible and working on changing whatever negatives there are,” says Arnie Clebone, economic development director for Ohio Department of Development Region XII, which includes Ashtabula County. “We’re trying to improve the perception constantly as to how we relate to existing businesses and get new business to come to the area.”