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Love Where You Work

When considering a business location, think about more than regulations.
December 18, 2008
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/198982

Most entrepreneurs start their businesses wherever they happen to be at the time. But when they need to move or expand, business-friendly locations have a strong appeal. The specifics of what constitutes a business-friendly location may vary depending on your operation, but location consultant Kate McEnroe says, in general, you should look not just for an area with fewer regulations, but also for "a place with a service orientation and a consistent and well-managed set of rules for being in business."

81%

of small and midsize businesses plan to maintain or increase ad spending in the next 12 months.

(Source: The Kelsey Group)

Rob DeRocker, a senior counselor with Development Counsellors International, a PR firm that specializes in economic development and tourism marketing, agrees: "Moving is a very disruptive process, and most companies don't want to do it," he says. "But when it becomes necessary and when a company is interested in setting up shop in a community, they want to know they're wanted. They want responsiveness by the relevant public and private sector officials. They want to know their questions are going to get answered, even if it turns out to be answers they didn't want to hear."

Evaluating a location for business friendliness includes such issues as financial incentives, taxes and user-friendly government systems. "It should be pretty easy to figure out what permits you need and to get them," McEnroe says. "You should easily be able to figure out what regulations you may be subject to and get through whatever process for approvals you need." Look for an area with updated regulations that are designed to accommodate your style of operation and take technological advances into consideration. For example, if your company functions completely or partly on a virtual basis, will the area accommodate homebased workers with services such as high-speed internet access? Also, are there resources for growing companies ranging from education to funding sources for entrepreneurial ventures?

McEnroe says business-friendly locations tend to have well-managed infrastructures so you can budget for normal increases in taxes, fees and expenses, rather than risk being hit with big jumps when your business is suddenly in need of major repairs.

Finally, McEnroe advises, consider the position of entrepreneurs in the local landscape. Do you see entrepreneurs in leadership positions with the economic development agency, the chamber of commerce and similar organizations? "Trust your instincts," she says. "If you feel you're not getting attention and responsiveness [when you're shopping for a potential location], don't presume it will get better once you're there. You can get a good sense of that early in the process if you're interacting with the folks whose job it is to bring you into the area."