The 2013 Small Business Survey shows a strong future for Florida small businesses. The survey points directly to Florida’s economic recovery, with small businesses reporting increases in sales and capital expenditures throughout the past year.
Of the 1,093 businesses surveyed, 87% planned to grow their business in the next 12 months. Of those, 30% plan to hire new employees, 27% plan to make new capital expenditures, and 19% plan to expand their product lines.
While the future of Florida small businesses is bright, many still face obstacles in securing access to capital: 19% of respondents reported regularly using alternative forms of capital to finance their small business, and 44% indicated they would like to use alternative sources of financing in the future.
In 2012, the Florida Small Business Development Center Network helped its client businesses gain access to more than $235 million in capital. Although the FSBDCN does not loan money, its certified business consultants help businesses assess funding opportunities, identify potential financing sources, evaluate eligibility, and help them prepare documentation required by the lender.
Several Florida state agencies are also making changes that ease barriers to business establishment and expansion.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) is implementing an initiative to allow regulated entities to apply for licenses online. In addition, the department now provides online fine payment for infractions such as failed inspections. The department is also exploring ways to reduce the number of inspectors that visit each business and is cross-training a limited number of inspectors.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has taken several steps to make it easier to transact business in Florida. Through DBPR’s Apply Now! project, the department reviewed the rules and statutory authority for various applications and revised applications and rules to increase accuracy and completeness. Each year DBPR increases the number of professions that can electronically submit license applications and associated documentation. Subsequent to the Apply Now! initiative, the department launched Customer Success!, an effort to determine which business processes help DBPR customers succeed, measure the success of those processes, and find ways to improve them.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) created the DEP Business Portal, which allows businesses to submit permit applications and pay associated fees online. DEP also conducts pre-application workshops to provide businesses an opportunity to address application and permitting questions prior to application submission. Due in part to these efforts, the department reported that it has reduced the average permitting time from 79 days to 30.5 days.
The Department of Revenue (DOR) is the lead agency working on a statewide one-stop business registration portal. Phase I of the portal will serve new businesses that have never submitted a business or license application and includes the Departments of Business and Professional Regulation, Financial Services, Lottery, Management Services, Revenue and State.
Sources: The 2013 Small Business Survey was conducted by the Florida SBDC Network in conjunction with Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability Management Services, Revenue and State.