Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in January that New York is open for business. Let him prove it by removing roadblocks and rolling out the red carpet to business.

“The chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world,” noted President Calvin Coolidge in 1925.

The opening paragraph of the website of the Empire State Development Division for Small Business affirms Silent Cal’s observation: “Small businesses are the heart of the American economy, comprising 98 percent of all businesses in New York and employing more than half of New York’s private sector workforce. Innovation, creativity, determination and perseverance are just a few of the essential qualities small business owners demonstrate every day.”

Four of my friends coincidentally, and almost simultaneously, embarked upon their pursuit of the American dream by starting their own businesses in the past few months. They quickly learned that the determination and perseverance referenced by the ESD are not empty praise of would-be entrepreneurs, but are, in fact, a challenge by the state: if you are determined, and if you persevere, you may, eventually, be allowed to do all of those things and even prosper.

The owners of business No. 1 encountered variations on the theme of antiquated and arbitrary rules. The mandated sales tax certificate was applied for through the purportedly faster online system, yet hadn’t been received a month later as the store’s opening approached. Frantic inquiry revealed that the state’s follow-up letter requesting more information was never mailed to them. Moreover, the required information could not be emailed to the agency because the technology was, according to the state, “not trustworthy;” the data could only be faxed or mailed. So, although the snafu was the state’s error, the owners had to scramble for the privilege of collecting state sales tax.

The issue of obtaining a “small business loan” was a veritable hornet’s nest. In hindsight, the owners say, they would have told various loan officers, “Please don’t waste our time; just tell us ‘No’ right away.”

The owners of business No. 2 initiated the frustrating process last August. Their business involved the sale of alcohol, the licensing of which requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks, village approvals, waiting periods, building inspections, and trips back and forth to the Buffalo Liquor Authority because documents had to be presented and surrendered in person. Satisfying many of the demands required time off from their current jobs, and at least two appointments were cancelled by the licensing agency (the owners were not informed until their arrival).

And there was an avalanche of paperwork: Affidavits, photographs and diagrams of premises, statements of use, approval of method of operation, inspections, approvals by the Department of Health. The business could have opened in time for the lucrative Christmastime holidays but, misdirected by the agency, the temporary retail permit was not received in time. Lawyer’s fees, application fees, and license fees consumed a small fortune, while not a penny was being earned by the business. Months later, the owners are still waiting for the liquor license.

These are just very small retail businesses. Can you imagine the frustrations faced by small manufacturing companies with many employees and complicated operations? The state not only installs speed bumps on the highway to innovation and prosperity, but throws down spike strips that stop businesses dead in their tracks. How many entrepreneurs pack up their great ideas and move to business-friendly climates in other states? According to a recent report by the Partnership for New York City, $71.7 billion in income left the state between 1993 and 2008.

Gov. Cuomo said in January that New York is open for business. Let him prove it by removing roadblocks and rolling out the red carpet to business.

Macedon resident Cheryl Miller can be e-mailed at Fortuna_reilly@yahoo.com.

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