West Virginia Should Welcome Home-Based Entrepreneurs | Opinion
During last year’s shutdowns, 6 in 10 Americans started new hobbies to keep busy – 35% of them with the intention of making a few bucks with it. Entrepreneurship has helped keep many families afloat and provided people with creative opportunities at a time that has markedly undermined America’s collective mental health.
West Virginia needs to realize that this trend is going nowhere, even as the pandemic grows and diminishes. If we are to develop a reputation for opportunity and keep its people in the state while attracting new people here, it is vital that we update our laws and regulations for the modern economy.
Offloading home businesses by updating local zoning regulations is a place to start.
Home Based Businesses (HBB) come of all kinds – freelance work, bakery, daycare, auto repair, education, crafts, dog walking – the list is practically endless. This impressive variety of flexible employment opportunities represent a clear opportunity for policymakers to make West Virginia more business-friendly, and without hurting taxpayers as well.
According to the Survey Center on American Life, 27% of Americans are looking for a new job or will be in the next six months. The same survey shows that among women, 39% say that flexibility to balance work and family needs is one of the most important factors in choosing a job. HBBs can be a viable option for many people looking to return to work, especially those who find traditional employment options with too many strings attached.
While West Virginia’s economy has rebounded from Covid, the state’s economy is still languishing. With the second-lowest labor force participation rate in the country and the loss of a congressional seat due to emigration, West Virginia needs a miracle – and it doesn’t happen overnight on the next day. They are built through sound political decisions that promote growth and freedom. Removing additional charges for HBBs would put West Virginia on a path of miraculous growth.
The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy recently published a new article exploring home-based entrepreneurship in West Virginia. Our research found that in 2019, small businesses in West Virginia employed 49.2% of the overall workforce. Although policymakers often focus on trying to lure large corporations out of state with tax incentives, a better way to improve the economy would be to ease the burden on small businesses in the state. mountains. A thorough review of the HBB regulations is a good place to start.
HBB regulations are zoning regulations overseen by local zoning appeal boards. Some cities with onerous HBB zoning regulations include Charleston, Wheeling, and Martinsburg.
Charleston has a two tier system for HBB zoning. Level 1 restricts HBBs to business conducted over the telephone and the Internet. Level 2 allows HBBs to engage in more types of activities, but they must go to a public hearing for approval, provide additional off-street parking, and cannot hire non-resident employees.
Can you imagine Let’s say you want to start an in-home manicure service because it’s cheaper than having to rent commercial space elsewhere. This means that you have to appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals for a public hearing in order to get approval for your small manicurist service, in addition to the paperwork. You will also need to add additional off-street parking to your home which would take more time and money. To top it off, if your business is growing successfully and you want to hire a second manicurist, you can’t because that person doesn’t live with you.
Wheeling and Martinsburg have even more absurd regulations. Wheeling prevents Class 1 HBBs from operating from sheds or garages. Martinsburg limits HBBs to about a dozen obscure types of businesses, including town planners and seamstresses.
Zoning bylaws like these were originally intended to prevent incompatible uses from occurring in the shared space. It makes sense that a neighborhood wouldn’t want a miniature chemical plant to come out of its neighbor’s house, but the vast majority of HBBs do no harm to neighbors. The fear of this unlikely event is not a sufficient reason to put the boot on people with a dream.
We are late, as is the case. Policymakers in cities like Seattle, Chicago, and Fairfax have all updated their HBB regulations in response to the Covid pandemic. West Virginia also has the opportunity to tell its people that entrepreneurship is valued. He should take it – and soon.
– Amanda Kieffer is the Director of Communications at the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy. She is also a contributor to Young Voices.