Thingish Things

New York’s War on Small Business

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Mar• 10•12

“One Last Time; How Much Salt Do You Put in Your Crust?!”

A friend and client running in a special election for the New York State Assembly next week captured in a single sentence exactly why businesses, small and large, have been fleeing the Empire State. The candidate, Rich Wager, had  just finished a tour of Columbia and Dutchess County farms when we sat down to coffee. Here’s what he said:

“When New York State contacts your business, you know you’re in trouble for something.”

Exactly. It is never good news when a letter from the state comes in the mail or an inspector walks through your doors. 

And it’s not just the state.  It’s the cities, too. And the counties and the towns and the villages. Somewhere along the way, government in New York began treating private sector businesses as adversaries, as targets for a never-ending game of “gotcha.” They declared war on their own tax base. 

This week we saw in the New York Post, a New York City Health Department inspector throwing out $10,000 worth of sushi-grade tuna at a Manhattan restaurant because the sushi-chef handled with his hands — as all sushi chefs do. The inspector poured bleach on the fish to make sure it could not be saved.  I’m surprised he didn’t then stomp on it. The owner complained; I’d have pressed chopsticks through the inspector’s eyes.

Weeks before, a Staten Island restaurant owner — this blog declared him “New Yorker of the Week” — shuttered the doors to his businesses out of protest.  He would rather have no business than suffer the harassment and indignities of the health inspectors.  There went another handful of jobs. 

Last month, a Papa John’s pizza owner in New York’s Capital Region was fined $5,500 for not providing each of his employees with five tee shirts, one for every day of the week. The inspector wasn’t responding to a complaint; he discovered the transgression during a routine interrogation.

New York State was just ranked as having the second worst business climate in the country. Is it any wonder why? Why would anyone want to open a business in a state that tries to trip you up at every turn? Do the grinding bureaucrats in state and city government know that other cities and states actually try to help businesses grow? 

Not all states, of course. Take California. Coca Cola and Pepsi, products that have been around for more than 100 years, now have to alter the chemical composition of their caramel coloring — or be banned from selling their colas in the Golden State.  This, while California hands out I.O.U.s to its vendors. 

Maybe this is good news for all those “hicks” in middle America. In time, they can land all the jobs and businesses that we geniuses on the “progressive” coasts chase away. 

“When New York State contacts your business, you know you’re in trouble for something.”

That’s a keeper. 

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