In the age of the startup, it seems like everyone and their moms are starting businesses. While most entrepreneurs face similar business problems like securing funding, those in Wayne County face slightly different issues.

MIMayors, an initiative of Westland Mayor William R. Wild, commissioned Ed Sarpolus and his research firm Insyght Institute to conduct a survey of 1,000 entrepreneurs. The aim of the survey was to address business growth issues facing the City of Westland and the surrounding area.

“These entrepreneurs are much closer to the reality of what it takes to turn business ideas into a success,” said Ed Sarpolus. “The top three barrier of ‘roads and infrastructure’, ‘crime and safety’, and ‘high taxes and fees’ are almost never discussed when talking about small-medium business growth and startups”.

Challenges of doing business in Wayne County

Of the nine challenges listed in the survey, 77.9 percent of entrepreneurs listed roads and infrastructure as a challenge, the highest of any on the list. Only 13.7 percent said the roads weren’t an issue, and another eight percent were undecided or didn’t know.

Crime and safety came in second, with 74.2 percent saying that it was a challenge and 15.4 percent saying it wasn’t. 10.4 percent of the respondents were undecided.

The third biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs was high taxes and fees, according to 63.1 percent of those surveyed. The other two camps were almost equally split, with 18.2 percent saying taxes and fees weren’t an issue and another 18.7 percent saying they were undecided.

Lack of public transportation followed closely behind taxes and fees in Wayne County. 62.5 percent said that the lack of public transportation was a challenge for entrepreneurs. About 25.7 percent said it wasn’t, and another 11.8 percent were undecided about transit. Hopefully, this challenge will begin to see solutions, considering that the RTA just put forth their master transit plan for the region.

The full list of challenges, along with the percentage of respondents who believe these are challenges currently facing entrepreneurs in Wayne County is as follows.

  1. Roads and infrastructure, 77.9 percent
  2. Crime and safety, 74.2 percent
  3. High taxes and fees, 63.1 percent
  4. Lack of public transportation, 62.5 percent
  5. Schools and work skills prep, 61.9 percent
  6. Local economy, 59.6 percent
  7. Working with county government, 52.9 percent
  8. Working with city government, 48.3 percent
  9. Finding qualified employees, 39.3 percent

While it may be exciting to see that only 39.3 percent of respondents view finding qualified employees, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. The number of respondents who view finding employees as a challenge (39.3 percent) is almost equally split with those who don’t see it as a challenge (39.4 percent). 21.3 percent were undecided.

This really should be a surprise when looking at the numbers surrounding education and skills prep. Of those surveyed, 61.9 percent said that schools not providing the proper education for the skills needed in the workplace today was a major challenge. 24.9 percent said it wasn’t, and another 13.1 percent was undecided.

This is extremely telling, and it should serve as motivation to remedy the problems surrounding Detroit’s public schools. If things continue the way they’re going, it may become increasingly difficult for businesses to find educated, qualified employees in the region.

“The results are quite disturbing in light of present economic policy and plans to grow business in Wayne County and its local cities and townships.” said Mayor Wild. “It better identifies why ‘tax incentives’ and capital investment alone won’t work. Governmental entities must provide the environment for investment and capital to work.”

But perhaps Wild said it best when he stated, “Governmental and other entities must stop assuming that we really understand what entrepreneurs need.”

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