Small businesses are the lifeblood of America’s national, state, and local economies. That’s especially true for Pennsylvania’s 1.1 million small businesses. They comprise 99% of all businesses and provide two out of every three jobs in the state. They range from mom-and-pop shops to construction companies and next-level technology startups. Together, these entrepreneurs fill essential “need gaps” in communities. They also drive innovation and boost economic growth.

Starting a small business in Pennsylvania offers great promise. It also comes with financial challenges that can deter aspiring business owners from pursuing their dreams. These include start-up fees and other requirements when registering a business.

“That’s why UPMC strongly supports Pennsylvania Senate Bill 663 and House Bill 1905, which would reduce or eliminate startup fees for small businesses,” says George Robinson II, MBA, director, UPMC Supplier Diversity and Inclusion. “These bills offer valuable financial relief during the critical start-up phase of a new business. They’re directly targeted to benefit diverse businesses, which often are under-resourced.” Depending on the nature and size of the small business, Robinson says these fees can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

“UPMC is deeply committed to supporting social justice and economic equity in the communities we serve. Our Supplier Diversity and Inclusion program actively seeks to partner with businesses owned by veterans, people of color, women, LGBTQIA+, individuals with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups as vendors for many goods and services we need,” adds Robinson. “Expanding small business fee exemptions can only help broaden Pennsylvania’s efforts to support diverse entrepreneurs.”

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Growing Diverse Businesses in Pennsylvania

“When states work to eliminate or reduce start-up fees, it helps spur business and job growth,” says Nicole Hudson, director of strategic connections and opportunities at The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE)/University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “It’s a win/win for everyone.”

Pitt’s SBDC is one of more than a dozen Pennsylvania SBDCs that partner with UPMC Supplier Diversity and Inclusion. All offer “UPMC Essentials for Success,” a free business education and development program. It’s designed to give new business owners the fundamentals they need to succeed. It’s also the first step needed to be considered as a UPMC vendor.

“At UPMC, we’ve consistently demonstrated the value of supplier diversity and inclusion initiatives in driving economic and community development,” says Robinson. “We began with engaging entrepreneurial individuals across minority- and women-owned businesses. Over time, the list of diverse vendors that UPMC recognizes has grown to include veterans, individuals with disabilities, and individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+. They are exactly the kind of diverse businesses these proposed new bills will benefit.”

Hudson notes that Pitt’s SBDC annually provides thousands of hours of consulting support to about 60 startup businesses. “That number could be much higher if the state exempts start-up fees. That’s true not only at Pitt but at 14 other SBDCs statewide,” she says. “These bills will free up dollars for new businesses to officially legalize their business, often delayed due to costs. In the long run, these bills will help startups save money. It can also put them on the path to becoming established community businesses.”

Sharing Common Goals

Both Senate Bill 663 and House Bill 1905 build on previous legislation passed in 2016. Those bills provided 100% exemption for veteran-owned and reservist-owned small businesses from certain state and local business startup fees.

“The new bills will expand financial relief to all the categories the Commonwealth recognizes as diverse,” says Hudson. “Businesses with five employees or less would qualify for a 100% fee exemption. All other small businesses would receive a partial exemption equal to 50% of the fee.”

Robinson and Hudson applaud the bipartisan sponsors of both proposals. “And we encourage other groups and organizations — regardless of their politics — to contact their legislators. Learn more, ask questions, and offer support for these bills,” says Robinson. “We hope that others who value a diverse marketplace will help push these bills across the finish line.”

About Government Advocacy

UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Learn about UPMC’s position on public health issues and gain a better understanding of the initiatives that advance the health care industry.