Poll: North Carolina Small Businesses Support Expanding Access to Licensing for Justice-Impacted Individuals

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

New poll finds strong support for licensing reform measures that would help to expand the candidate pool and boost opportunities for entrepreneurship

Raleigh, NC — Today, Small Business Majority released new research that reveals strong support for licensing reforms that could expand North Carolina’s small business workforce. More than 8 in 10 North Carolina small business owners (83%) support legislative solutions that would remove barriers to occupational and professional licensing for justice-impacted individuals. 

Small businesses are a crucial part of North Carolina’s economy and support 45% of the state's private sector workforce. However, Small Business Majority’s research finds that 68% of small business owners in the state say the top challenge they face when hiring is finding quality candidates. Justice-impacted individuals are an untapped pool of candidates, but this community faces difficulties in accessing the licensing that is often required to own or work for a small business. In fact, 44% of North Carolina small business owners say their business requires occupational or professional licensing to own or work for the business. 

“Small businesses in North Carolina are experiencing workforce challenges, hindering their ability to expand,” said Joseph Graham, Jr., CEO of Equity on Everything in Concord. “We are looking for ways to build a diverse and productive workforce with limited resources. I know that expanding occupational licensing for justice-impacted individuals will help me access a pool of employees who are eager to work. Removing barriers to occupational licensing for people with previous criminal records can help an underutilized community become gainfully employed and support smaller employers’ efforts to grow their business.”

The poll reveals that North Carolina small business owners strongly favor a number of reforms to expand access to occupational licensing. For example, 81% of small businesses say state licensing boards should consider the nature of the offense when deciding whether to deny a license, rather than deny a license broadly for any felony conviction.

“North Carolinians with criminal records are being held back from pursuing their American dream or advancing in their career,” said Awesta Sarkash, Public Policy Director for Small Business Majority. “Small business owners are open to hiring justice-impacted individuals, but unfair licensing laws are standing in their way. It’s time for state policymakers to enact proposals that will enable aspiring entrepreneurs and workers with previous criminal records to become integral community members.”

The survey also reveals small business owners’ support for reforms to end debt-based driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fines and fees (73% support), which can hinder one’s ability to get to and from the workplace. It can also impact an individual’s ability to start their own business if their driver’s license has been revoked, undercutting their entrepreneurial goals. 

As this research shows, reforms to occupational licensing and debt-based driver’s license suspensions can expand North Carolina’s workforce pool to include more justice-impacted people who are eager to work. 

The poll reflects a survey of 100 small business owners and decision-makers in North Carolina. The poll was an online and phone survey conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting from February 5-11, 2024. Click here to read the full report.



About Small Business Majority

Small Business Majority is a national small business organization that empowers America's diverse entrepreneurs to build a thriving and equitable economy. We engage our network of more than 85,000 small businesses and 1,500 business and community organizations to advocate for public policy solutions and deliver resources to entrepreneurs that promote equitable small business growth. Our deep connections with the small business community along with our scientific research enable us to educate the public about key issues impacting America’s entrepreneurs, with a special focus on advancing the smallest businesses and those facing systemic inequalities. Learn more about us on our website and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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