By eliminating business license tax, Tallahassee lays out welcome mat for Airbnb

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Tallahassee’s decision to become the first Florida city to eliminate the business license tax will open up the state capital to more economic opportunities and help develop innovative companies, like Airbnb, Mayor Andrew Gillum said.

Gillum and the city commission voted unanimously last week to eliminate the business license tax, which is paid by some 12,000 businesses and generates some $2 million a year, starting in October 2017.

“Repealing our business tax makes Tallahassee one of the most business friendly cities in the state, and will encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens and neighborhoods to become economic drivers of their own,” Gillum said.

“I believe this is a game-changing step toward a more dynamic future for our city, as it removes barriers for innovative companies like Airbnb that are using disruptive technologies to create new economic opportunities. We are proud to send the message that Tallahassee is now more than ever, open for business.”

Representatives of Airbnb, which is a San Francisco-based company, said elimination of the tax will allow more Tallahassee homeowners to participate in the home-sharing service, which included 170 Airbnb hosts in the city in 2015 handling 4,100 guests, which was a 260 percent increase over the prior year.

The hosts typically earn about $1,900 a year with 16 shared nights, Airbnb said.

“With this vote, Tallahassee joins a growing list of global cities embracing innovation and working to ensure that everyday people can benefit from the economic opportunities created by home sharing,” said Michael O’Neil, Airbnb’s regional director of public policy.

O’Neil said the Tallahassee decision will set an example for other Florida communities, as Airbnb continues to work with city officials, community organizations and Florida State University.

Airbnb is joining with the Seminole Football Boosters to provide more lodging opportunities for fans, alumni and others on game weekends.

“It’s our hope that by providing additional and affordable lodging options we can get more fans and donors to come to Tallahassee for the games and stay for the weekend,” said Caroline Conway, a spokeswoman for the boosters group.

“Whether it’s their first time in town or they’re returning to their old college stomping grounds, the boosters are hopeful Airbnb will help fans feel more at home at home games this season,” Conway said.

Lloyd Dunkelberger is a Tallahassee-based political reporter and columnist; he most recently served as Tallahassee bureau chief for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.