Best Places to Start a Business in Pennsylvania

Small Business
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Best Places to Start a Business in Pennsylvania

The entrepreneurial spirit thrives in Pennsylvania, a state that several hundred thousand small businesses call home. Nearly half of all private-sector jobs in Pennsylvania fall under the small-business umbrella.

Pennsylvania bounced back after the recession — its unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in seven years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Regionally, the Pittsburgh area saw economic recovery sooner than most U.S. metro areas. Pennsylvania’s key industries include energy, technology, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, film and aviation, according to the state’s community and economic development department.

The state has its challenges. The corporate income tax is higher than in most states, and businesses must navigate a difficult permitting and regulatory system to get up and running. But Pennsylvania works to encourage entrepreneurs through state-funded resources such as regional outposts for Small Business Development Centers and Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance as well as programs made available through Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

NerdWallet’s analysis

We looked at 145 places in Pennsylvania, each with a population of at least 5,000, then calculated the overall score for each location based on the business climate and economic health using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. For more details, see the methodology section at the end of this article.

Key takeaways

Land of corporate headquarters. Many places on the top 10 list have at least one corporate headquarters, which provides employment and helps communities prosper. Major corporate headquarters found in places on our list include Ikea USA, David’s Bridal, Rite Aid and Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory.

Prosperous in Pittsburgh. Four communities in the top 10 list are in or just outside the Pittsburgh metropolitan area in western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh has achieved employment growth year over year, and consistently experiences statistical increases in gross domestic product. Top industries in the area include manufacturing, education, health services and mining, due to the natural gas reserves of the Marcellus shale formation.

Best places to start a business in Pennsylvania

1. West Mifflin

West Mifflin, a borough in Allegheny County, is less than 12 miles southeast of downtown Pittsburgh. West Mifflin’s 1,159 businesses earn an average of $5.14 million per business annually — the highest of any community on our list. Major employers include Allegheny County Airport, U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works Irvin Plant, Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, Bombardier Transportation and Kennywood Park, which was founded in 1898, and is one of the country’s oldest amusement parks.

2. Moosic

The borough of Moosic lies just south of Scranton in northeastern Pennsylvania. In Moosic, the about 11 businesses per 100 people see an average annual revenue at just over $3 million. Some of the key retail and entertainment attractions include the Cinemark 20 and XD Movie Theater and the Shoppes at Montage, as well as baseball games at PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The Greater Northeast Chamber of Commerce is in Moosic and serves Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.

3. Media

Media, which calls itself “Everybody’s Hometown,” is a borough west of Philadelphia in Delaware County. In Media, there are nearly 32 businesses per 100 people, the highest ratio on our list. The Media Business Authority promotes business development in the borough and local businesses are advertised on VisitMediaPA.com. According to the borough, Media was the first place in the Americas to achieve fair trade status.

4. Latrobe

Latrobe is in Pittsburgh’s metro area. The city has over 21 businesses per 100 people, and those businesses earn an average of $2.14 million annually. Latrobe is home to the training camp of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arnold Palmer’s Latrobe Country Club. City Brewing Co. has a plant in Latrobe as well. Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” got his start here, as did the banana split (though there’s a rival for the claim). The Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Community Chamber of Commerce serves city businesses. Latrobe is home to the Small Business Development Center at Saint Vincent College.

5. Uniontown

The city of Uniontown is in Fayette County, about 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Uniontown’s 933 businesses bring in average of $1.5 million per business each year. More than 58% of all businesses in Uniontown have paid employees, the highest percentage on our list. Downtown Uniontown and the Uniontown Mall are the main business districts in the city. Main Street Uniontown promotes entrepreneurial options in the historic downtown of the city. The Fayette Chamber of Commerce serves Uniontown businesses.

6. Warren

Warren lies on the banks of the Allegheny River. There are 729 businesses in this city of about 10,000 residents. Annually, businesses here average $3.94 million in revenue per business. Warren is notably the home to the catalog company Blair Corp., United Refining Co. and Northwest Savings Bank. The Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry serves businesses in Warren and the surrounding areas. Downtown Warren Partnership works to promote businesses and events in the city’s downtown.

7. Conshohocken

Conshohocken is a western suburb of Philadelphia that lies on the Schuylkill River. Conshohocken businesses bring in an average of nearly $2.87 million annually. In this borough, there are over 15 businesses per 100 people. The borough, nicknamed “Conshy,” is home to several corporate headquarters including Saladworks, David’s Bridal and Ikea USA.

8. Greensburg

Greensburg, a city in Westmoreland County, is part of the Pittsburgh metro area. There are 2,520 businesses in Greensburg, the highest number on the top 10 list, and 17 businesses per 100 people. Greensburg businesses average nearly $1.42 million in revenue per business per year. The city was awarded a grant in 2014 for revitalization projects through the Revitalizing Westmoreland initiative. The Westmoreland Mall is the largest retail hub in Greensburg. The city is home to the Westmoreland County Prison, Excela Health and Excela Westmoreland Hospital, Seton Hill University and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. The Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce is also headquartered in Greensburg.

9. Wyomissing

In Wyomissing, a borough in Berks County near Reading, there are 15 businesses per 100 people. Wyomissing businesses bring in average revenue of $1.92 million per business each year. The top industries in the Greater Reading area include manufacturing, health care and social assistance, as well as government, retail trade and food services. Companies headquartered in Wyomissing include Customers Bank, Penn National Gaming Inc. and SFS intec USA, a fastening systems supplier and manufacturer.

10. Camp Hill

The borough of Camp Hill is just outside Harrisburg. Camp Hill businesses earn an average of $2.68 million per business annually, and there are nearly 17 businesses per 100 people. Camp Hill is home to Rite Aid Corp., the engineering consultant Gannett Fleming Inc. and the industrial services company Harsco. The West Shore Chamber of Commerce serves Camp Hill businesses.

Best places to start a business in Pennsylvania data

Scroll through the table below to see the data on the 145 places analyzed in Pennsylvania.

Rank City Population Number of businesses Average revenue per business Businesses with paid employees Businesses per 100 people Unemployment rate Score
1 West Mifflin 20,307 1,159 $5,141,278 48.49% 5.71 5.7% 61.05
2 Moosic 5,702 649 $3,021,544 47.61% 11.38 3.9% 58.01
3 Media 5,331 1,693 $783,542 40.28% 31.76 5.8% 55.10
4 Latrobe 8,286 1,754 $2,140,533 36.72% 21.17 5.1% 53.90
5 Uniontown 10,320 933 $1,510,736 58.63% 9.04 6.8% 52.80
6 Warren 9,618 729 $3,947,446 39.23% 7.58 6.2% 51.77
7 Conshohocken 7,850 1,203 $2,868,545 41.73% 15.32 6.6% 51.16
8 Greensburg 14,787 2,520 $1,419,518 41.83% 17.04 5.1% 51.08
9 Wyomissing 10,473 1,587 $1,922,170 38.63% 15.15 3.5% 50.17
10 Camp Hill 7,888 1,323 $2,685,546 27.66% 16.77 3.6% 49.63
11 Sayre 5,576 609 $1,539,644 40.56% 10.92 3.0% 49.57
12 Carnegie 7,970 786 $1,970,462 46.95% 9.86 6.1% 49.43
13 Oakmont 6,340 587 $659,421 48.89% 9.26 3.0% 49.35
14 Pleasant Hills 8,278 603 $985,561 54.06% 7.28 4.9% 49.10
15 Coraopolis 5,671 720 $3,586,840 31.67% 12.7 6.3% 49.03
16 Dickson City 6,058 744 $1,816,191 36.42% 12.28 3.9% 48.39
17 Doylestown 8,371 1,476 $940,680 40.11% 17.63 3.8% 48.38
18 Bristol 9,699 671 $2,960,788 43.82% 6.92 6.4% 47.98
19 Connellsville 7,636 562 $624,881 47.51% 7.36 2.8% 47.41
20 Wilkes-Barre 41,374 2,582 $2,123,588 43.65% 6.24 4.9% 47.34
21 Chambersburg 20,360 1,516 $1,885,243 45.32% 7.45 5.6% 46.94
22 Gettysburg 7,639 610 $1,170,746 46.07% 7.99 4.5% 46.63
23 Hermitage 16,262 1,894 $1,035,305 40.76% 11.65 4.4% 46.33
24 Kingston 13,151 1,254 $641,378 44.50% 9.54 4.4% 45.17
25 Washington 13,803 1,303 $1,220,368 46.28% 9.44 6.9% 45.13
26 Stroudsburg 5,565 1,918 $546,616 34.93% 34.47 11.5% 44.99
27 St. Marys 13,020 1,192 $1,281,356 37.25% 9.16 4.0% 44.77
28 Castle Shannon 8,309 548 $648,181 44.16% 6.6 3.3% 44.64
29 DuBois 7,760 890 $860,183 42.70% 11.47 5.7% 44.62
30 Somerset 6,227 739 $1,247,164 43.30% 11.87 7.8% 44.29
31 Clarks Summit 5,118 695 $1,328,922 28.78% 13.58 2.5% 43.99
32 Johnstown 20,740 1,590 $1,433,072 45.66% 7.67 7.5% 43.96
33 Lewisburg 5,759 1,359 $726,777 24.87% 23.6 5.1% 43.59
34 Monroeville 28,361 2,755 $1,184,921 35.86% 9.71 4.0% 43.44
35 Wilson 7,871 511 $713,661 51.66% 6.49 5.9% 43.43
36 Meadville 13,368 1,257 $776,621 44.63% 9.4 6.0% 43.32
37 Hanover 15,332 1,760 $949,023 39.94% 11.48 5.6% 43.10
38 Pittsburgh 306,062 24,581 $2,651,971 31.62% 8.03 5.9% 43.03
39 New Holland 5,400 517 $2,481,563 32.30% 9.57 6.0% 42.84
40 Huntingdon 7,064 1,043 $802,180 27.80% 14.77 2.9% 42.77
41 Dunmore 14,031 1,094 $1,620,676 36.01% 7.8 4.7% 42.76
42 Kennett Square 6,078 909 $804,557 31.68% 14.96 2.8% 41.83
43 Bethlehem 75,030 4,890 $2,688,361 30.98% 6.52 5.8% 40.98
44 White Oak 7,864 569 $295,262 41.83% 7.24 4.5% 40.86
45 Lock Haven 9,861 640 $742,094 42.19% 6.49 5.6% 40.63
46 Monaca 5,740 504 $968,448 38.10% 8.78 6.2% 40.50
47 Bloomsburg 14,655 1,035 $1,007,100 35.17% 7.06 3.9% 40.33
48 Waynesboro 10,622 653 $1,281,237 47.01% 6.15 9.1% 40.11
49 Murrysville 20,136 1,930 $1,105,903 28.29% 9.58 3.4% 39.90
50 Palmyra 7,364 906 $975,461 29.80% 12.3 4.7% 39.58
51 Carlisle 18,816 1,840 $1,545,840 32.28% 9.78 6.2% 39.41
52 Pottsville 14,228 972 $1,349,266 34.88% 6.83 5.7% 39.36
53 Punxsutawney 5,946 527 $555,622 37.19% 8.86 5.6% 39.36
54 Franklin 6,499 1,016 $805,785 28.15% 15.63 5.8% 39.36
55 Ellwood City 7,735 613 $1,938,843 29.04% 7.93 5.8% 39.32
56 Hollidaysburg 5,800 776 $312,755 24.74% 13.38 2.0% 39.10
57 Monessen 7,682 582 $962,653 32.65% 7.58 4.4% 39.06
58 Bethel Park 32,344 2,908 $756,026 31.88% 8.99 4.0% 38.98
59 Ephrata 13,445 950 $743,697 38.53% 7.07 5.0% 38.91
60 Quakertown 8,965 1,210 $584,779 34.79% 13.5 5.8% 38.71
61 New Castle 23,083 2,184 $1,195,240 32.33% 9.46 6.1% 38.67
62 Palmerton 5,397 648 $854,519 23.92% 12.01 2.3% 38.62
63 Nazareth 5,746 1,025 $330,242 26.24% 17.84 4.4% 38.52
64 Jeannette 9,595 1,185 $426,535 28.61% 12.35 3.8% 38.49
65 Scranton 75,982 4,620 $1,291,514 35.04% 6.08 5.4% 38.47
66 Elizabethtown 11,599 835 $1,323,877 27.54% 7.2 3.2% 38.31
67 Harrisburg 49,395 3,651 $2,569,060 36.13% 7.39 10.1% 38.27
68 Selinsgrove 5,654 862 $542,182 18.68% 15.25 2.1% 37.87
69 Berwick 10,429 1,035 $856,094 30.53% 9.92 4.9% 37.63
70 Williamsport 29,429 1,619 $1,909,926 38.17% 5.5 8.9% 37.62
71 Lansdale 16,324 1,620 $1,489,528 32.16% 9.92 6.4% 37.58
72 Mechanicsburg 8,981 833 $2,216,989 26.29% 9.28 6.9% 37.34
73 Beaver Falls 8,897 615 $1,351,330 32.85% 6.91 6.8% 36.68
74 Butler 13,701 1,566 $927,761 33.46% 11.43 7.8% 36.52
75 Swarthmore 6,199 908 $365,230 19.16% 14.65 2.0% 36.52
76 Folcroft 6,617 578 $1,400,062 46.37% 8.74 12.1% 36.43
77 Altoona 46,195 3,425 $930,651 32.26% 7.41 6.0% 36.40
78 Lewistown 8,347 515 $1,028,536 38.45% 6.17 7.9% 36.23
79 Emmaus 11,271 1,434 $679,856 27.27% 12.72 5.1% 36.12
80 Bradford 8,712 723 $1,708,485 33.20% 8.3 9.4% 36.04
81 Hatboro 7,380 1,053 $580,965 36.28% 14.27 8.2% 35.88
82 Forest Hills 6,516 858 $864,277 23.31% 13.17 6.0% 35.54
83 Aliquippa 9,415 818 $565,218 31.05% 8.69 6.1% 35.34
84 Fox Chapel 5,390 786 $339,235 18.70% 14.58 3.2% 35.33
85 Crafton 5,947 600 $322,040 24.83% 10.09 3.0% 35.30
86 Sharon 13,930 892 $973,031 36.43% 6.4 8.4% 35.07
87 Erie 101,324 6,245 $1,423,758 30.87% 6.16 7.1% 34.87
88 Indiana 14,013 957 $1,705,277 29.15% 6.83 7.3% 34.70
89 State College 41,948 2,421 $564,276 32.01% 5.77 4.2% 34.69
90 Lebanon 25,520 1,713 $1,089,465 37.83% 6.71 9.2% 34.62
91 Wilkinsburg 15,943 1,035 $2,718,208 21.06% 6.49 7.4% 34.27
92 Brentwood 9,638 587 $297,051 31.69% 6.09 4.6% 34.04
93 Nanticoke 10,442 697 $361,565 31.13% 6.67 5.3% 33.97
94 Lititz 9,376 1,060 $571,005 17.83% 11.31 2.5% 33.95
95 Pottstown 22,442 2,063 $1,162,990 27.82% 9.19 6.6% 33.90
96 Jefferson Hills 10,844 780 $1,056,329 23.08% 7.19 4.1% 33.89
97 Shillington 5,271 570 $347,795 24.56% 10.81 3.5% 33.87
98 Milton 7,026 710 $1,263,535 28.73% 10.11 8.3% 33.75
99 Collegeville 5,220 1,036 $442,172 17.47% 19.85 5.4% 33.27
100 Oil City 10,466 840 $771,796 28.33% 8.03 6.6% 33.21
101 Norristown 34,330 1,759 $1,346,258 37.24% 5.12 8.6% 33.16
102 Downingtown 7,923 903 $1,075,062 25.80% 11.4 7.2% 32.84
103 McKeesport 19,744 1,178 $874,427 33.28% 5.97 8.3% 32.66
104 Hazleton 25,233 2,766 $958,975 29.03% 10.96 8.7% 32.63
105 Chester 34,011 1,191 $1,809,987 37.70% 3.5 10.9% 32.50
106 Tyrone 5,451 825 $450,896 14.30% 15.13 3.9% 32.43
107 New Kensington 13,050 1,101 $552,985 27.52% 8.44 6.7% 32.40
108 Lancaster 59,335 4,332 $1,251,719 35.50% 7.3 10.2% 32.29
109 Red Lion 6,350 608 $1,100,461 19.90% 9.57 5.3% 31.98
110 Kutztown 5,009 607 $480,044 27.35% 12.12 7.8% 31.95
111 Plum 27,257 2,096 $496,411 24.05% 7.69 4.6% 31.94
112 Swissvale 8,975 590 $281,564 31.36% 6.57 6.9% 31.71
113 Lower Burrell 11,704 921 $199,283 26.06% 7.87 5.2% 31.60
114 Phoenixville 16,480 1,871 $737,274 19.78% 11.35 5.0% 31.36
115 Canonsburg 8,984 818 $572,472 24.33% 9.11 6.4% 31.13
116 Sunbury 9,869 793 $818,353 25.60% 8.04 6.9% 31.00
117 York 43,808 2,815 $2,173,779 34.10% 6.43 13.0% 30.99
118 Franklin Park 13,679 1,304 $218,306 18.94% 9.53 2.9% 30.83
119 East Stroudsburg 9,859 1,807 $576,126 24.02% 18.33 10.2% 30.52
120 Shamokin 7,337 518 $348,122 35.14% 7.06 9.8% 30.37
121 Titusville 5,528 581 $527,153 26.68% 10.51 8.9% 30.24
122 Middletown 8,899 623 $1,554,920 17.17% 7 5.5% 30.16
123 Bellevue 8,352 588 $328,626 26.02% 7.04 6.1% 30.15
124 South Williamsport 6,369 655 $511,789 18.47% 10.28 4.9% 30.01
125 Brookhaven 8,034 593 $324,609 25.13% 7.38 5.3% 29.93
126 Carbondale 8,880 842 $441,097 28.15% 9.48 8.7% 29.65
127 Easton 26,959 2,268 $1,146,482 23.72% 8.41 7.8% 29.30
128 Pittston 7,713 824 $548,335 20.02% 10.68 6.8% 29.26
129 Archbald 7,035 770 $468,190 19.48% 10.95 6.7% 29.19
130 Mount Joy 7,646 667 $792,135 17.69% 8.72 5.3% 28.56
131 Philadelphia 1,536,704 88,140 $1,583,251 23.10% 5.74 8.9% 28.19
132 Glenolden 7,156 503 $535,131 16.30% 7.03 4.4% 27.55
133 Souderton 6,629 647 $489,668 17.16% 9.76 5.8% 27.15
134 Allentown 118,285 7,644 $1,420,252 24.91% 6.46 9.6% 26.94
135 Columbia 10,390 511 $921,012 20.94% 4.92 6.7% 26.43
136 Morrisville 8,731 775 $735,077 25.03% 8.88 8.9% 26.39
137 Clifton Heights 6,649 706 $311,916 17.42% 10.62 6.3% 25.94
138 Economy 9,069 759 $47,192 11.86% 8.37 2.6% 25.87
139 Perkasie 8,530 949 $468,336 14.23% 11.13 5.4% 25.14
140 Lansdowne 10,619 951 $233,516 17.35% 8.96 6.8% 24.23
141 Yeadon 11,479 701 $395,658 16.41% 6.11 5.7% 23.98
142 Reading 87,978 4,545 $1,786,504 23.67% 5.17 12.4% 23.87
143 Baldwin 19,777 1,065 $252,968 16.06% 5.39 6.2% 23.69
144 Darby 10,666 571 $766,067 22.42% 5.35 10.4% 21.01
145 Coatesville 13,104 942 $419,190 13.59% 7.19 9.7% 17.17

 

Methodology

NerdWallet analyzed 145 places in Pennsylvania, each with a population of 5,000 or more. We excluded communities with fewer than 500 businesses, regardless of the population.

NerdWallet calculated the overall score for each location using the following 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 age 16 is 15% of the score. A lower rate contributed to a higher score.

NerdWallet staff writer Anna Helhoski contributed to this article.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, skyline image via iStock.