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Balloons float over downtown Colorado Springs Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, during the Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off in Memorial Park. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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Colorado Springs ranks as the nation’s fourth-friendliest city for small business, says the seventh annual survey released Tuesday by Thumbtack.com, a San Francisco-based online consumer service.

It’s the latest in a series of accolades the city has received from national publications, news organizations and web-based services. Last month, U.S. News & World Report ranked Colorado Springs as the nation’s most desirable place to live, and this year it listed Colorado Springs as No. 2 among best places to live.

In Thumbtack.com’s 2018 survey, Colorado Springs’ No. 4 ranking out of 57 cities was a marked improvement from last year, when it ranked No. 37 out of 80 metro areas. The Springs also received an overall grade of A+ this year, up from a B in 2017.

This year, Thumbtack.com ranked cities and states in nine areas of performance based on 7,629 responses from small-business owners and operators across the country, though only 32 respondents were from Colorado Springs.

The survey, conducted June 4 through July 16, is voluntary and unscientific. Business owners and operators who use Thumbtack.com’s website are provided a link asking them to take the survey. Thumbtack.com helps match consumers with small-business professionals who market hundreds of auto, home and other services.

The city’s high marks this year resulted from providing a more welcoming environment for small businesses, said Mayor John Suthers.

A few years ago, the City Council agreed to phase out the city’s personal property tax on business equipment and machinery, which was paid by small manufacturers and companies of that size, Suthers said.

“We were getting $2 million in revenue, and it was pretty tough to explain to businesses here (that were) thinking about expanding and businesses thinking about moving here,” Suthers said. “Frankly, it wasn’t worth the $2 million in revenue.”

He also credited the city’s Rapid Response Program — started under former Mayor Steve Bach — for assisting businesses and expediting their regulatory hurdles.

In general, Suthers said, small businesses also are in a better frame of mind because of a stronger economy.

“I’ve just got to believe that when the economy gets better, small businesses feel better about things,” he said.

Colorado Springs has seen its ranking go up and down over the years in the Thumbtack.com survey. In 2014, the city ranked No. 1 nationally, but it dropped to No. 29 the next year, and later to No. 37 before rebounding this year.

In addition to its overall A+ grade this year, Colorado Springs received grades of A and A- in employment, labor and hiring regulations; tax regulations; licensing regulations; and training and networking programs. The city earned Bs for its ease of hiring and overall regulations. It received a C+ in the ease of starting a business. Government websites, however, got an F — a grade shared by 34 other cities in this year’s survey.

“Generally speaking, Colorado Springs has a lot to be happy with, with regard to how small-business owners are feeling,” said Lucas Puente, Thumbtack.com’s lead economist.

The Texas cities of Fort Worth and San Antonio ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in this year’s Thumbtack.com survey, followed by Columbus, Ohio, Colorado Springs and Jacksonville, Fla. The cities all received grades of A+. The bottom five cities, which all received F grades, were San Francisco, Honolulu, and Anaheim, San Diego and Riverside, Calif.

Denver — the only other Colorado city in this year’s Thumbtack.com survey — ranked No. 41 and received an overall grade of C-.

Business writer, Colorado Springs Gazette

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