Yesterday, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on a new University of Arizona study which found that “Philadelphia [is] among toughest cities to start a company in America.” According to the new report, the average business opening in Philadelphia needs to take eight legal steps and pay costs more than three times the national average.

The new study is disappointing because Philadelphia has the highest rate of poverty among the nation’s biggest cities, and the best way to reduce that poverty is to increase the number of people working at good, family-sustaining jobs. That requires the creation of and support for small and neighborhood businesses. Anything that makes opening these new businesses harder for entrepreneurs needs to be addressed quickly and comprehensively.

That’s why this spring, Chamber of Commerce and its allies in the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project announced their support for a Business Owners’ Bill of Rights which “would clear the way for entrepreneurs to focus on getting off the ground without getting bogged down in city processes or running up costly legal bills. And it would bring fairness, equality, and transparency to the process of business formation so that underrepresented communities and minority small businesses get a guaranteed fair shake in the process.”

The Business Owners’ Bill of Rights is built around five rights:

  • The right to transparent and fair application of rules;
  • The right to timely responses from government agencies and authorities;
  • The right to assistance from the Office of Business Services;
  • The right auto appeal any government decisions; and
  • The right to polite, professional and courteous conduct.

If Philadelphia is going to reduce its highest among big cities poverty rate, it needs to increase the number of people employed at good, family-sustaining jobs. The first step is reducing the hurdles entrepreneurs face to starting a new business.