RALEIGH – The economist who oversees a new survey that gives high marks to both Raleigh and North Carolina for “friendliness” cites one key word as the reason and says it is good news for economic recruiters endeavoring to land the big Amazon HQ2 project.


But there’s much more to that conclusion than just a snap judgment about how businesses are governed than one might assume.

“The small business owners that we heard from in the Raleigh area were particularly pleased with the regulatory environment,” Dr. Lucas Puente of San Francisco-based Thumbtack, which matches people who have projects they needed done with professionals to complete them, tells WRAL TechWire.

“These were generally seen as easy-to-comply with, but also consistently enforced. Put simply, the rules of the road is seen as clear and the playing field as level.”

So why is the ranking of Raleigh as the ninth best city for small business among 57 cities in the survey help with HQ2?

“This rating is good news for Raleigh’s attempt to land Amazon’s HQ2 since a ‘stable and business-friendly environment’ is one of the four main criteria on which applicants for that search are being evaluated,” Puente explains.

Two other Amazon HQ2 finalists beat Raleigh in the Thumbtack survey:

  • Columbus, No. 3
  • Nashville, No. 6

Other high-ranking cities include Austin (12), Boston (13) and Atlanta (14).

Anazon’s home city of Seattle, meanwhile, came in 45th.

Raleigh has scored both at the top and bottom of various reports about which of the 27 declared Amazon HQ2 finalists will ultimately land the project.

Also, Amazon has said it is looking at the entire Triangle, not just Raleigh.

The Thumbtack survey focused just on the Raleigh area, including Wake, Franklin and Johnston counties, Puente says.

Yet the HQ2 recruiting as well as that for a new Apple campus also has left a sour taste among the small business community, he adds.

“[I]t’s also worth pointing out that four-in-five of our respondents in the Raleigh area said that their local policymakers were prioritizing attracting and supporting new corporations over supporting local small businesses,” he points out.

“In other words, not all small businesses owners there are thrilled about their local government making the HQ2 search the top local economic development priority when they’ve been creating jobs and supporting the local economy there for years.”

Raleigh’s grade in the survey improved just as the Amazon HQ2 and Apple campus recruiting drives head toward possible decisions later this year.

Raleigh climbed to an “A” from a “B” in 2017.

The state survey, meanwhile, ranks North Carolina at 13th, up 23 spots from 2017 with a grade of “A-,” up from a “C+.”

“For the state of North Carolina, the improvement this year was largely driven by improvements in regulations as well,” Puente notes.

“Employment and labor regulations went from an ‘A-‘ in 2017 to an ‘A’ this year and licensing regulations went from a ‘B’ to an ‘A-.'”

Thumbtack says it surveyed 7,629 small business owners from across the U.S. It notes that the survey “asked these entrepreneurs about the policies of their states and cities toward small business, as well as the overall level of support in their community.”