Editorial: Worcester startup friendly, but not for everyone

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The financial services and industry website WalletHub.com released a ranking May 2 of the best cities to start a business.

Worcester ranked second in New England and 33rd among the largest 150 cities in the United States.

A survey of a different kind released April 27 painted quite a different picture, ranking Worcester third to last among the same 150 cities.

Worcester's downtown skyline could see many significant changes.

Wikimedia Commons

Worcester is business-friendly for some, but challenges remain for others.

The same website released its list of best cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs. Worcester ranked 148th. Boston was 142nd, Providence last.

In determining the city was the 33rd best place in the nation to start a business, WalletHub weighed 16 metrics in three groups: business environment, access to resources and costs.

Among the metrics were average number of small businesses, number of startups per 100,000 residents, five-year business survival rate, access to financing, prevalence of investors, venture investment per capita, availability and costs of personnel, cost of living and corporate taxes.

Worcester’s purported best asset is access to resources, ranking 19th. It was 40th overall In business environment and 109th in costs.

In this study, Boston ranked 14th overall on the basis of garnering the top score in access to resources. It was a shade above Worcester in business environment (33rd) and well behind in costs (125th).

Among the 19 metrics used for the study on Hispanic entrepreneurs, many were similar or identical to the other study, reflecting the overall business climate for startups. Data on business-friendliness, entrepreneurial activity, industry variety, five-year survival rate, significant startups per capita, average monthly rent for office space, corporate tax rate and length of average workday were part of the overall Hispanic Business-Friendliness Factor.

Also included in the Hispanic Business-Friendliness factor were share of Hispanic-owned businesses and Hispanic entrepreneurship rate, which carried double weight.

Worcester’s overall rank for Hispanic Business-Friendliness was 133 out of 150.

More troubling was the study’s Hispanic Purchasing Power ranking in which Worcester ranked dead last. That score accounted for 40 percent of the overall ranking.

Want to find out exactly how challenging it is to be a startup business
in Worcester, read Giselle Rivera-Flores’ latest installment of the first
Sun Serial:
A Mother’s Journey | Part 18 — The new direction

Giselle works the phone, trying to find solutions to her and her daughter's problems.

Jaime Flores Photography

Giselle works the phone, trying to find solutions to her and her daughter’s problems.

The Hispanic Purchasing Power rank gave full weight to affordability (as measured by dividing median annual income of Hispanics by the cost of living index), housing affordability for Hispanics (as measure by dividing the median annual income of Hispanics by the media house price), income growth for Hispanics, Hispanic unemployment rate, percentage of Hispanic residents, Hispanic population growth and percentage of Hispanics with at least a Bachelor’s degree. Half weight was given to Hispanic housing tenure (as measured by the renter-to-owner ratio).

The survey noted Worcester had the third-lowest median annual income for Hispanics adjusted for the cost of living.

This is troubling because, as the Worcester Regional Research Bureau “Worcester Almanac: 2016” points out, people who identify as Hispanic or Latino represent 21 percent of Worcester’s population.

More importantly, according to the Research Bureau, “Approximately 1 in 5 residents of Worcester was born outside the United States, with nearly one-third of those residents originating in Latin America.”

Worcester’s ranking as the 33rd best city in the nation in which to start a business is good news that merits celebration. It is the culmination of much hard work on the part of political, civic and business leaders, not to mention the entrepreneurs and the customers who support them.

At the same time, we need to recognize and understand that there remains much work to be done. Worcester is not being seen as an inviting place for Hispanic entrepreneurs, and with a large and growing share of the population of Hispanic or Latino origin, this is a serious problem.

Nothing can ensure that all entrepreneurs are equally successful. Markets will decide that. However, as a community we can ensure equality of opportunity, and in this respect there is a ways to go.

Worcester will work best when it works for all.

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