Websites help spark new business startups

By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

The number of new businesses started in Mississippi increased 20 percent last year. That was on top of significant increases in 2015 and 2016.

While changing dynamics in the state's economy and growing interest in ownership drove the increase, another spark may have come from use of a state website that is the only one of its kind in the country.

Call it information with a Mississippi attitude.

"The state had a remarkable year in new businesses in 2017, it was a banner year, up 20 percent statewide and 15 to 18 percent in the Golden Triangle," Assistant Secretary of State Jeremy Martin told a group of more than 40 business people at a seminar hosted by the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.

"We want to see them stay in business, to grow their business," Martin continued, showing off the state's Y'all Business and Mississippi BOSS Web sites that offer information, research and guides for large and small businesses.

The two sites are the only ones of their kind in the country and put the tools of starting a business or moving a business to the state in the hands of "anyone anywhere in the world."

"Our goal is to make Mississippi the most business-friendly place in the union and we are doing it," Martin explained. "The kinds of things that can take you two weeks or month to get in other states or cities you can get in 15 or 20 minutes here in Mississippi. It's changing things."

The Y'all Business site -- yallbusiness.sos.ms.gov -- is filled with information ranging from street-level traffic counts to demographic and consumer information for communities throughout the state.
"You can get some information down to the Census tract," said Martin, who runs the Secretary of State's Tupelo office.

As an example, he told the story of two Alabama investors interested in starting a fine-dining restaurant in a community in North Mississippi. When they started reviewing demographic and spending information on the site, they realized their targeted area was more interested in buffet-style dining. To top it off, the community had no buffet-style eatery, making the investors' decision an easy one.

Likewise, the Mississippi BOSS site -- www.ms.gov/sos/onestopshop -- expands on information from the other site, down to helping lay out the steps for starting a business.

It also  provides guidance on financial resources and developing a business plan and where to go in communities across the state for permits, licenses and other information.

"We are trying to make it as easy as possible. Most people have a dream, but have no knowledge whatsoever of how to go about it, the rules and regulations, anything. These sites help overcome that," Martin said.

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