Summoning optimism amid so much unfinished business, Krueger-Braneky said of Philadelphia's current small-business environment:
"There has been progress in the past year, and there's still a ways to go."
On the ways-to-go front, still surviving is what Krueger-Braneky considers an onerous and, based on what she has heard from other cities, unusual requirement that start-ups in Philadelphia pay two years of business taxes up front before they even make a sale.
There are exemptions for businesses that create three full-time jobs in the first year and six in the second year, a hiring pace that Krueger-Braneky said "is aggressive for a young company."
"Ultimately, this is an issue of competitiveness," she added. "If a business needs to pay two years of taxes up front in the city but can cross county lines and find a more favorable tax structure, that's a lost opportunity for Philadelphia."
But I did say that Krueger-Braneky had found reasons to be positive. Most involve steps taken by the Commerce Department, including:
Enhancing the city's online Business Services Center to allow businesses to identify what permits, licenses, and other approvals they need to operate. The portal can be reached at www.phila.gov/business.
Listing small-business technical assistance providers on the business-services portal.
Expanding the department's multilingual staff to include business-service representatives who speak Mandarin, Korean, Khmer, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. According to a U.S. census-databased report by the Fiscal Policy Institute and circulated by the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative in August, one in every seven Philadelphia-area small-business owners was an immigrant.
Among the other changes Krueger-Braneky identified as worth being enthusiastic about:
A website launched in August by the Department of Licenses and Inspections that features searchable and mappable data.
L&I is moving to an online licensing and permitting system that enables simultaneous multiuser commenting across departments and provides businesses with the ability to track the progress of their applications.
The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC) has been approved as a Community Development Financial Institution and, as such, is seeks funding to help meet small-business gap-financing needs under $75,000.
Philadelphia Works, a workforce-development nonprofit, is instituting a new focus on small business.
"You never say it's perfect because perfect isn't something that exists in the vocabulary," said Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development. "But the climate for small business has gotten much better."
It will get even better, he said.
"What we want to get to is online applications for permits and online payments of permit fees," Greenberger said. "That's a work in progress."
He also mentioned a phased-in tax exemption of the first $100,000 in gross receipts starting in 2014 as part of the recently passed Jump Start Philly business-tax legislation.
Yvette Jones and her husband, Dereck - she is CEO and he president of Ultimate Concrete L.L.C. - were pictured on the cover of SBN's Taking Care of Business report. Since then, Yvette Jones said, she has seen the city "making strides toward improving the environment for small business."
For her 16-year-old business with eight employees and $500,000 in annual revenue, that has included the PIDC's helping to find ways to get her small company a cut of larger concrete and masonry jobs it could not handle alone. "We're working closely with city agencies that I see wanting to create an opportunity for us," Jones said.
Learn more about the report and Ultimate Concrete at
Contact Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @mastrud on Twitter.