Consider Heidi Vasas something of an expert on business climates in Western states.
Vasas, owner of Las Vegas-based Vasas Business Insurance, sells policies in Alaska, California, Texas, Arizona and Utah, among other regional states. But it’s Nevada that ranks as Vasas’ favorite place to do business, and she credits the Silver State’s tax structure and streamlined government as key factors in why her company has thrived in its 24 years here.
“Las Vegas is a phenomenal town to do business in,” said Vasas, whose company has three employees and 17 agents. “The tax climate is wonderful. By not having to pay all the different taxes, I can hire more employees and put more people to work.”
A new report backs up Vasas’ glowing review. The Small Business Survival Index, a study from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council in Virginia, says Nevada ranks No. 2 nationally for its friendliness to small businesses, primarily because of its favorable tax structure.
Nevada was second only to South Dakota.
The council bases the index’s rankings primarily on a state’s public policies and how they affect small businesses.
Nevada ranked first in several areas, including tax rates for personal and corporate income and capital gains.
Nevada also ranked first for having the lowest number of government employees per 100 residents.
California ranked No. 49 in the index.
Steve Hill, chairman of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said businesses consider a broad variety of aspects when choosing whether and where to start a company.
A state’s tax climate is imperative, because high taxes can eat into return on investment. With lower levies, it’s easier to create value in a business, and that means greater incentive for entrepreneurs to open new companies, Hill said.
But business operators also want to know about an area’s quality of life, including its schools. Sheer growth is important, too.
“Las Vegas has mostly been an exceptionally vibrant economy, a high-growth economy, and I think that’s important to most businesses,” Hill said. “We’ve been able to combine that growth with low taxes and a generally pro-business set of elected officials, and that combination is what makes Nevada a great place for doing business.”
Kimberly Gyuran, president of The Payroll Co. in Las Vegas, said taxes and financial issues ranked No. 3 or No. 4 on her list of reasons Nevada made for good business. Gyuran said she doesn’t think Nevada’s lack of income taxes mean the Silver State is necessarily low-tax. Plenty of state agencies charge businesses and consumers fees that affect the bottom line but don’t count in any tally of levies.
“Where they’re not getting (tax money) from one place, they’re getting it from another,” she said.
Rather than focusing mostly on taxes, Gyuran said, she would also think about the city’s climate for families, including its education system, if she were an outsider contemplating a move here.
And even better than Nevada’s tax base is the access it offers to small operators looking to connect with government and business leaders.
“You can make an appointment and go talk to Mayor (Oscar) Goodman,” Gyuran said. “You don’t have all this protective stuff. Everything’s very touchable, and there are more opportunities here.”
Vasas also cited issues besides taxes that make Nevada a healthy place for her company.
For one thing, she said, she’s able to find a steady stream of skilled employees and prospective clients here. She loves Southern Nevada’s colleges and universities. And the area’s open-minded pioneer ethos places few limits on locals’ ability to achieve their goals.
Still, any entrepreneur weighing a new startup will give careful thought to a state’s lineup of levies, Vasas said.
“The tax climate is extremely important to outsiders (considering moving here),” she said. “Startup businesses need every penny they can get their hands on. The less they have to pay in taxes, the more money they have left to promote their business with. And the more they promote their business, the more people they can hire.”
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512. The Associated Press contributed to this report.