Colorado Biz Has Bigger Problems than Union Organizing

    The recent hullabaloo portending that Colorado will become an anti-business state with the passage of a pro-union law ignores a series of findings on the state of entrepreneurship: sure, Colorado is a great place to do business unless you are a woman or minority.

    Critics charge that House Bill 1072 – a realignment of the Colorado Labor Peace Act that strikes an unnecessary provision requiring a second supermajority vote by workers to become a union shop where dues or agency fees would be applied to all employees in the workplace – will create an unwelcome climate for corporations seeking to relocate here.

    However, it’s curious that the self-appointed barons of industry and chambers of commerce have little to say about the current hardships that exist for female- and minority-owned Colorado companies that many of those in business leadership can influence as bank directors and regional economic development officers. Obstacles to success which have no relationship to modernizing the state’s labor organizing standards from a WW II-era law to prevent miners from striking.

    According to a first-ever statewide survey of women- and minority-owned companies conducted by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and Prudential Financial, it’s tough sledding for entrepreneurs outside of the white ol’ boys club:

    Other results of the survey indicate that there are important differences between men and women and between white and non-white business owners regarding access to basic resources that increase the likelihood of success, including education, prior business experience, business knowledge, property ownership, active relationships with a bank or lending institution, and access to federal or state government contracts. The findings include:

    • Resources such as business experience, ownership of property, access to start-up capital, etc. are negatively related to one’s race, ethnicity, and gender
    • Black business owners take in less revenue than their White counterparts, and Female business owners take in less revenue their Male counterparts
    • Black and Latino business owners find that start-up capital is the most important factor in the success of their businesses
    • Blacks, Female, and Immigrant business owners are much more likely to grade their bank’s level of responsiveness to their needs as insufficient
    • Black and Female business owners are less likely to use a bank for their financial needs, possibly as a result of their dissatisfaction with banks in general. This is despite the fact that these groups are more likely to be the ones who need banks to acquire start up financing because of their lack of resources

    As HB-1072 makes its way to Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk, perhaps the reflexive and misguided anti-union rhetoric of Colorado’s business leadership and conservative politicians ought to be replaced with some introspection on their own responsibility for creating and enabling an environment that makes it difficult for women and minority businesses to succeed.