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Nadworny: Good For Business

A recent report notes that based on surveys for the Website, Vermont has received a failing grade for friendliness to small businesses. And the response to the report has been as predictable as a summer Champ sighting on Lake Champlain.

Those who’ve continually made an issue of Vermont’s business climate pointed to the report as validation. According to them, the report is further proof that Vermont ignores the critical needs of business, large and small.

But a commissioner for the state’s Agency of Commerce points out that the report reflected old, incomplete surveys based on perceptions rather than hard data.

So the debate about doing business in Vermont could go on and on and on, and it probably will. However, a new study by University of California economists adds a new wrinkle to this conversation. They examined the effects of state policies aimed at promoting better business climates on inequality in those states. They looked specifically at two types of policies: those that try to spur growth by lowering business costs, and those that try to spur growth by improving the quality of life.

They found a clear connection between low-tax, low-cost state business climates and higher economic inequality. In other words, those states that got high marks in’s business friendliness report also had higher levels of inequality.

Vermont continually receives high marks in quality of life surveys and reports - like being the best place to raise children or being the healthiest state. What the UCal study suggests is that states can be great for business or great for human beings but perhaps not always great for both. And if I had to choose - which, in fact, I have - I’d choose a place that is great for human beings.

Notice, by the way, that I don’t use the word people or persons here. If we say a state is great for people, nowadays, we might have to include corporations. But I don’t think even the conservative wing of the Supreme Court could confuse a business with a human being, even if they have given businesses certain constitutional rights like contributing vast amounts of money to campaigns, or denying women health coverage.

But back to Vermont business. We don’t have a state rich in natural resources. We don’t have neighboring big cities to drive our business growth, like Denver does with Boulder. We don’t really have that many people. But the ones we do have tend to be as innovative as anywhere in the country and Vermont is about as people-friendly as it gets. That might not translate into lower taxes but it definitely translates into happy, creative people. And what business wouldn’t want employees like that?

Rich Nadworny is a designer who resides in Burlington and Stockholm.
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