For decades, businesses have gravitated toward urban centers like New York and Los Angeles. But are those thriving metropolis the best locations to launch a new business? Here’s a look at some of the best cities to launch a new start-up based on competition, access to resources, and economic growth.
CNNMoney ranks Austin, Texas the most business-friendly city in America. The city has a projected job growth of 4 percent, making it one of the top cities for projected job growth in the country through 2015. As the 11th-largest city in the country, Austin has the population to support whatever a small business is selling. The Austin area has a long history of business success, being home to such major companies as Whole Foods and Dell.
Austin is especially welcoming to technology companies, with the University of Texas at Austin turning out thousands of engineering and computer science graduates each year. In 2012, Forbes ranked Austin as the top city in the nation for jobs. The Wall Street Journal Marketwatch named Austin the top U.S. city for growing businesses, citing its close ties to both energy and technology.
Ranked at the top of Forbes.com‘s 10 Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs, Tulsa provided $125 million in small commercial and industrial loans in 2012, according to NerdWallet. This is the second-highest lending rate of all major U.S. cities. Tulsa is especially beneficial to those in the aerospace industry, with the Tulsa Technology Center and the American Airlines maintenance base at Tulsa International Airport serving as the city’s largest employer.
As the 46th-largest city by population in the U.S., Tulsa has a built-in customer base for new start-ups. According to GrowMetroTulsa.com, Tulsa has the fifth-lowest cost for doing business in the U.S. Companies have stout competition, however. Tulsa is home to the headquarters for Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group and energy companies ONEOK and The Williams Companies–all three of which fall on the Fortune 1000 list.
Atlanta is often not credited for being the thriving metropolis it is. Entrepreneur.com ranked it as the best city to start a business due in part to the fact that small-business lending topped $62 million in 2012. But Atlanta’s population of 432,000+ is the reason it has been named the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S.
The Southern city has the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., serving as home to the global headquarters of The Coca-Cola Company, Home Depot, AT&T, and many other large companies. The city also has the fourth-largest concentration of technology jobs in the U.S. With 9.8 businesses per 100 residents, the city has less businesses competing for consumer dollars than cities like Seattle (12.5 businesses per 100 residents) and Tampa, Florida (11.5 businesses per 100 residents).
It may be known as the political capitol, but Washington, D.C. is home to a large population, centered in a small area. With more than 630,000 living in the city in 2012, D.C. is considered the 24th most populated area in the country. Monday through Friday, those numbers rise as residents of nearby Maryland and Virginia travel to D.C. to work.
But the jobless rate in D.C. is what makes it most conducive to small business development. This rate has changed slightly as the Federal government slashes jobs, but D.C.’s unemployment rate still hovers around 5.4-5.5 percent. When compared to New York City’s unemployment rate of 8.3 percent and Chicago’s unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, 5.5 percent isn’t bad for a major metro.
Bismarck, North Dakota
Speaking of low unemployment numbers, Bismarck, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July of 2013, Bismarck’s unemployment rate was around 2.5 percent. Even more impressively, while the nation’s unemployment figures hovered at 10 percent in 2009, Bismarck held strong with an unemployment rate of only 3.3 percent. Why? According to CNN Money, the city was growing at the right time, thanks to its energy sector, with the city ranking as one of the top wind-turbine areas in the U.S.
With a population of more than 60,000, Bismarck has the infrastructure to support incoming businesses. Health is an important part of the business sector, with Medcenter One Health Systems and St. Alexius Medical Center falling behind the State of North Dakota as the second- and third-largest employers in the city.
If you’re flexible about your living arrangements while starting a small business, these five cities provide great opportunity, while also having excellent access to amenities and housing. The list of “best cities for starting a small business” seems to be constantly evolving, however, so it’s important to watch for changes from year to year.