Entrepreneurs abound in New York, where small businesses make up 98% of all state businesses, according to the state’s Empire State Development. And U.S. Census Bureau data show revenue for New York-based businesses is high — over $1.1 million a year on average — so NerdWallet took a closer look at which places in the state are the best for starting a business.
There have been significant job gains in New York over the past year in areas such as educational and health services, professional and business services, trade, transportation and utilities, as well as construction. The unemployment rate remains at its lowest level since August 2008, according to state officials.
Regulations and taxes are a challenge for business owners, who will find red tape and costs associated with licenses and permits. As well, New York’s taxes are high for sales, property, individual income and more. But the state also encourages businesses to make their start through a plethora of state-funded resources — including the Business First Resource Center, with a range of assistance programs; 24 NYS Small Business Development Centers scattered across the state; and Start-Up NY, which provides 10 years of tax-free operations for qualified new and expanding businesses. (See a list of resources at the end of this article.)
NerdWallet analyzed 83 places in New York, each with a population of at least 10,000. We calculated the overall score for each location based on the city’s business climate and economic health using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Details about our methodology are below.
College towns are good for businesses. Most of the cities on the top 10 list are home to or near at least one college or university, and many of them are campuses of the state university system, or SUNYs.
Nassau County, Mid-Hudson Valley booming. Three towns on the top 10 list are in Nassau County, east of New York City on Long Island. Nassau is home to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for bio-innovation, the Advanced Material and Manufacturing Technology Innovation Center for composite prototyping and Hauppauge Industrial Park. Four communities in the top 10 are in the Hudson Valley, which is the site of dozens of biotech companies and the Hudson Valley Research Park.
Best places to start a business in New York
The village of Suffern borders New Jersey and is about 35 miles from Midtown Manhattan. Its 1,238 businesses bring in an average of over $7.9 million in annual revenue per business, the highest by far on the top 10 list. One of the biggest employers in the village is Avon Products Inc. — its Global Research and Development Facility is based here. Suffern is home to the regional Small Business Development Center at Rockland Community College.
2. Garden City
Garden City is less than 25 miles from Midtown Manhattan. Average annual revenue per business is more than $1.4 million, and there are over 19 businesses per 100 people in Garden City, which is the highest ratio on our top 10 list. Garden City has the highest median monthly housing cost on our list ($2,966), but it also is home to the highest median annual income ($107,411). Popular business districts in the village include Franklin Avenue, Seventh Street and Roosevelt Field shopping mall. Garden City is home to Adelphi University and Nassau Community College.
Mineola, a village in Nassau County, is nicknamed the “Friendly Village.” There are more than 17 businesses per 100 people in Mineola, one of the highest ratios on our top 10 list. Mineola is about 30 miles from New York City and has a station on the Long Island Rail Road. The Mineola Chamber of Commerce serves the businesses of the village. The chamber also organizes the annual Mineola Fair, which attracts up to 10,000 people.
4. Glens Falls
In Glens Falls, a city in Warren County, companies bring in average revenue of over $2.1 million per business each year. About 45% of all businesses in Glens Falls have paid employees, the second-highest percentage on our top 10 list. Glens Falls has the lowest median monthly housing costs, at $912 a month, on the top 10 list. The median annual income here is $40,404. The Glens Falls Collaborative is a partnership of businesses, nonprofits, service providers and community members that holds events throughout the year. Glens Falls businesses are promoted on Visit.CityOfGlensFalls.com and GlensFallsRegion.com.
Harrison is an affluent town and village about 25 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan in Westchester County. Harrison businesses bring in average revenue of $4.2 million per business each year. Harrison is headquarters to large corporations, including Transamerica Retirement Solutions, Atlas Air Worldwide, PepsiCo and MasterCard, which are all in the hamlet of Purchase. The hamlet is also home to Manhattanville College and SUNY Purchase College.
6. White Plains
White Plains is the county seat of Westchester County, north of New York City. One of the top commercial centers in the area, White Plains boasts the largest population, 57,153, on our top 10 list, and the most businesses at 9,387. White Plains businesses are booming, bringing in average revenue of over $1.5 million per business annually. The White Plains Downtown Business Improvement District offers supplemental services to its members including marketing and promotion, aesthetic improvements, events and advocacy. The largest business organizations in the area are the Business Council of Westchester in Rye Brook and the Westchester County Association in White Plains. The city is also home to the Mid-Hudson area Entrepreneurial Assistance Program center at the Women’s Enterprise Development Center.
Ithaca is the largest city in Tompkins County in upstate New York. The city is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College. The city is known as a college town as well as a popular shopping and tourist destination. Ithaca’s 2,935 businesses bring in average revenue of over $1.1 million per business each year.
8. Rockville Centre
Rockville Centre is in Nassau County on Long Island less than 30 miles from Midtown Manhattan. The median annual income, $85,248, is higher than most places on our top 10 list, and Rockville Centre’s 3,698 businesses bring in average revenue of just under $480,000 per business annually. Most of the major employers in Rockville Centre are in health care, including Mercy Medical Center, Better Home Health Care Agency Inc. and Orlin & Cohen Orthopedic Group. Molloy College is another large employer in Rockville Centre.
9. Mount Kisco
Mount Kisco, a village in Westchester County about 40 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, has the smallest population on our top 10 list at 10,936 people. Despite the village’s relatively small size, there are over 17 businesses per 100 people, one of the highest ratios on our top 10 list. Mount Kisco’s 1,911 businesses bring in an average of $972,664 in revenue per business each year. Businesses in the area are promoted on MtKisco.com. Major business organizations in the area include the Business Council of Westchester and the Westchester County Association.
Watertown, a city in upstate New York’s Jefferson County, has nearly 1,800 businesses. Each year, businesses here bring in average revenue of over $1.6 million per business. Nearly half of all businesses in Watertown have paid employees, the highest number on our top 10 list. Jefferson County’s major employer is the Army’s Fort Drum, which is less than 15 miles from Watertown. The Watertown Downtown Business Association promotes downtown restaurants, shops and professional services. The city is home to a Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. It is also the site of a North Country regional Empire State Development Office.
NerdWallet analyzed 83 places in New York with populations of 10,000 or more. We excluded places with fewer than 500 businesses, regardless of the population. The overall score for each community was calculated using these criteria:
Business climate, 65% of the overall score, is based on three metrics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. Average revenue of businesses is 20% of the score. A higher average contributed to a higher score. Percentage of businesses with paid employees is 25% of the score. A higher percentage contributed to a higher score. Businesses per 100 people is 20% of the score. A higher number contributed to a higher score.
Local economic health, 35% of the overall score, is based on three metrics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Median annual income is 10% of the score. A higher median income contributed to a higher score. Median annual housing costs are 10% of the score. Lower median costs contributed to a higher score. Unemployment rate for residents over 16 years old is 15% of the score. A lower rate contributed to a higher score.
Resources and incentives for New York business owners
The Business First Resource Center, administered by Empire State Development, provides a comprehensive range of assistance programs for new businesses. There are also Empire State Development regional offices located throughout the state that enable budding entrepreneurs to meet one on one with business specialists and learn more about state resources.
Some key sources for small-business owners are offered by:
Empire State Development’s Small Business Division provides technical assistance and financial assistance programs for those looking to start or expand small businesses. Through this division, owners can apply for multiple sources of state funding including: Empire State development grant funds Excelsior jobs program (tax credits) Business incubator and innovation hot spot Environmental investment program
The 24 Small Business Development Centers scattered throughout the state provide business counseling and training to those who want to start a business or improve business performance. Services include sessions with a business advisor, workshops and training.
Entrepreneurial Assistance Program provides instruction, training, assistance and support to entrepreneurs in local communities through regional offices.
Business Mentor NY is a free social network that connects aspiring entrepreneurs with business mentors who volunteer to provide guidance and advice for running a small business.
Small Business Revolving Loan Fund is a $50 million fund targeted to small businesses that have had trouble gaining access to financing.
Innovate NY Fund is a $45 million seed stage business equity fund aimed at helping tech companies and other high-growth small businesses throughout the state.
The state also offers multiple business incentives for startups and companies that operate in New York City.
NerdWallet writer Anna Helhoski contributed to this article.
Updates: The minimum population for cities cited in this article has been corrected to 10,000. A link in earlier versions of the methodology has been changed.
White Plains, New York, image via iStock.