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Best Places to Start a Business

April 27, 2015
Small Business, Starting a Business
Best Places to Start a Business
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Boulder, Colorado-based Grasshaven Outdoor sells canvas tepees, durable dinnerware and patterned picnic coolers — accessories for glamorous camping, or “glamping,” as founder Dawn Bitz calls it. Since she quit her corporate job to start the company in 2012, Bitz has been called the “Martha Stewart of camping” and the “camping style diva.” She got the idea for the business when she was planning a camping trip with her husband and kids but couldn’t find gear that was both stylish and functional.

“It was literally one of those middle-of-the-night epiphanies,” she says of the moment the idea came to her.

With an e-commerce site, a flagship store in Boulder and 17 retail locations in RV dealerships across the country, the company has grown quickly. Bitz attributes much of that success to her city’s “entrepreneurial spirit,” which has helped her meet mentors, find great employees and even get access to capital. Grasshaven Outdoor employs four full-time workers and several part-time and contract employees. As she looks to expand, Bitz plans to improve the company’s website, and she hasn’t had trouble finding people to help her do that in Boulder.

“There’s just a hotbed of talent here to tap into,” Bitz says.

For more related information, visit NerdWallet’s resources on how to start a business.

Where do businesses succeed?

Location is one of the most important factors in business. A business’s location shapes its customer base, its workforce and its access to capital and mentorship.

To understand where entrepreneurs in the U.S. can find the most success, NerdWallet analyzed 183 metropolitan areas with 15,000 or more businesses and populations over 250,000. We considered six metrics to answer the two main questions about each place:

Are businesses successful here? In each place, we looked at the average revenue of businesses, the percentage of businesses with paid employees and the number of businesses per 100 people, all key indicators of success.

It’s important to note that about 23 million of the 28 million total U.S. small businesses are non-employer businesses, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. They are sole proprietors: one- or two-person enterprises including IT consultants, freelance writers, painters, roofers and more.

Is the area’s overall economy strong? We evaluated the median annual income, median annual housing cost and unemployment rate in each place to assess the environment for entrepreneurs.

Key takeaways

Smaller markets pay off. All of the places on our top 10 list have populations under 1 million. The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area in Connecticut has the largest population of the top 10 places at 926,233, and Wilmington, North Carolina, has the smallest at 259,815.

Consider the Midwest. When you think of successful locations, places on the coasts often are the first to come to mind. However, cities in the Midwest offer a lower cost of living and less competition. Five of the top 10 places on our list are in the Midwest, including two in Indiana and one each in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas, stands out. This southeast Texas metro area stands out because of its low annual housing costs and high business revenues. On average, businesses here take in 155% more than businesses in the other metro areas we studied.


Best Places to Start a Business

Best places to start a business

1. Boulder, Colorado

With stunning Rocky Mountain views, a booming technology scene, a large natural food industry and a culture that appreciates locally made goods, it’s no surprise that Boulder tops our list. Nationally recognized brands hail from the city, including Justin’s, a maker of organic nut butters, and Crocs, the casual footwear company famous for brightly colored clogs. Boulder has abundant resources for entrepreneurs, including several co-working spaces, capital investors and incubators. Business owners can also join the Boulder Chamber to attend networking events, get listed in its directory and find out about programs such as Boulder Young Professionals, which hosts social, volunteering and professional development events.

2. Wilmington, North Carolina

A growing population, strong tourism industry and proximity to the beach make this port city ideal for businesses. Wilmington has about 15 businesses for every 100 people — the highest volume of businesses in our top 10. Nearly 900 of those businesses are downtown, including Flytrap Brewing, a craft brewery, and Fuzzy Peach, a frozen yogurt chain started by three friends who met at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Businesses can join the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce to get listed in its business directory, attend training seminars and go to biannual business-to-business networking expos.

3. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut

In southwest Connecticut, just north of Long Island, the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area has a strong arts scene, an educated population and financially successful businesses. The annual median income here — $63,369 — is the highest of all places in our top 10. Local businesses include Amodex, a family-owned company that makes an ink and stain remover, and Mike’s Ristorante, a family-owned Italian eatery. Businesses in the area can join the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce or the Bridgeport Regional Business Council to attend networking events, get listed in their business directories and get access to insurance programs through the Chamber Insurance Trust.

4. Evansville, Indiana-Kentucky

Evansville is an economic and commercial hub in the Indiana-Kentucky-Illinois Tri-State area. The city’s biggest employers include two medical centers, the local school district and Berry Plastics, a company that makes plastic packaging products. Evansville also has several cultural districts with entertainment venues, local restaurants and boutiques. Businesses can join the Southwest Indiana Chamber to get listed in its directory, get discounts on business services and join local groups, including the Diverse Business Alliance and the Downtown Alliance. The Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville also has resources including free site selection services, business expansion programs and a technology incubator.

5. Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine

A small community with a big culinary culture, many of Portland’s local businesses involve food. Maine Foodie Tours offers culinary walking tours of the city, and Bite Into Maine is a popular food truck specializing in lobster rolls. Portland is also home to the SBA’s Maine Young Entrepreneur of 2010, Becky McKinnell, who founded the web design studio iBec Creative. For budding businesses, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce provides members with free meeting space and discounts on cellphone plans, health insurance, credit card processing and Apple products. Members of the Biddeford+Saco Chamber of Commerce & Industry are included in its business directory, can attend networking events and training workshops and get discounts on health insurance programs through the Alliance of Maine Chambers.

6. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Cedar Rapids has a low cost of living, a downtown district with local shops and restaurants and an economy driven by food processing, manufacturing, distribution, wind energy, electronics and financial services. Local businesses include Fix Salon, a hair and beauty salon, and Brewed Awakenings, a coffee shop. The unemployment rate of 3.8% is the lowest of our top 10. Businesses can join the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to get listed in its annual business directory and to attend networking events.

7. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas

This area, in southeast Texas near the Louisiana border, is home to Cajun culture, views of the Gulf of Mexico and an affordable cost of living. The average household pays $8,316 a year for housing, the lowest in our top 10, but businesses earn $2.8 million a year in revenue on average, the highest of our top 10 cities. Businesses can join the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce or the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce to be included in business directories, attend networking events and participate in referral groups.

8. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Home to the Packers football team, Green Bay draws visitors from across the state for home games at Lambeau Field. In addition to football, Green Bay’s downtown has parks, museums, theaters, shops, restaurants and the CityDeck, a boardwalk along the Fox River. Almost a third of businesses here have paid employees, including Hinterland, a brewery and restaurant featuring locally sourced food. Businesses can join the Greater Green Bay Chamber to be included in its directory and attend networking events. The Chamber’s Advance Microloan program offers loans up to $75,000 for new businesses in need of startup capital.

9. Fort Wayne, Indiana

As Indiana’s second-largest city, Fort Wayne has a low cost of living, family-friendly neighborhoods and a vibrant downtown. Local businesses here include The Olive Twist, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar boutique, and Pure Movement Pilates, a pilates studio. Businesses can join Greater Fort Wayne Inc. to get listed in its business directory, attend networking events and get business referrals. The city also has a step-by-step guide to starting a business in Fort Wayne.

10. Peoria, Illinois

This college town has a low cost of living, and it’s equidistant from Chicago and St. Louis. Bradley University and Caterpillar, the global construction equipment manufacturer, are located here, providing employment opportunities and drawing customers to local businesses, including The Chef and the Baker, a family-owned restaurant that sells box lunches and sweets. Peoria’s RiverFront District is the city’s main attraction, with festivals, live music, art, restaurants and shopping. Businesses can join the Peoria Chamber of Commerce to get listed in its directory, attend networking events and find advertising opportunities.

Best places to start a business

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RankLocationAverage revenue of businessesPercentage of businesses with paid employeesNumber of businesses per 100 peopleAnnual median incomeAnnual median housing costsUnemployment rateOverall score
1Boulder, CO$721,48923.8%14.1$55,348$15,7925.2%62.008
2Wilmington, NC$665,54823.6%15.1$40,615$11,9166.8%60.352
3Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT$2,145,21422.4%11.8$63,369$21,9486.8%57.606
4Evansville, IN-KY$1,844,83427.5%8.2$39,842$9,3124.8%55.532
5Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, ME$716,38224.0%12.1$45,258$13,5004.5%55.424
6Cedar Rapids, IA$1,514,83526.1%8.3$44,727$10,4523.8%54.624
7Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX$2,778,97322.9%6.9$41,240$8,3165.8%53.927
8Green Bay, WI$1,594,44831.1%7.2$41,972$10,5965.1%53.213
9Fort Wayne, IN$1,965,56226.5%7.7$41,666$9,0606.3%52.771
10Peoria, IL$1,698,14927.2%7.1$44,934$9,6245.3%52.019
11Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA$1,667,18122.1%8.7$45,653$11,8084.3%51.971
12Fort Collins-Loveland, CO$592,11624.5%11.3$47,194$13,8725.5%51.772
13Baton Rouge, LA$1,646,88920.7%8.8$43,853$10,0445.0%50.914
14Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI$1,416,69423.2%9.3$51,395$14,7365.3%50.843
15Salt Lake City, UT$1,315,86125.7%9.6$42,310$13,5365.4%50.811
16Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA$1,550,87725.4%8.0$42,918$11,7364.4%50.720
17Pittsburgh, PA$1,333,95425.6%7.7$44,705$9,4684.9%50.682
18Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA$1,425,63026.6%8.7$54,556$16,8845.9%50.185
19San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA$1,517,34221.5%10.3$61,691$20,4126.3%50.156
20Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT$1,829,74823.8%8.2$55,728$15,5646.4%50.115
21Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI$1,762,52927.1%7.2$46,655$12,0846.1%49.832
22Roanoke, VA$1,078,87027.6%7.8$40,752$10,0684.4%49.813
23Tulsa, OK$1,236,23521.6%9.3$40,080$9,8644.7%49.804
24Denver-Aurora, CO$1,109,07522.4%10.3$49,884$14,8325.9%49.800
25Lincoln, NE$1,045,67226.0%8.4$41,342$10,4284.6%49.578
26Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL$1,470,84624.4%7.3$43,194$9,4324.4%49.484
27Trenton-Ewing, NJ$1,637,87828.1%8.2$56,392$17,8447.1%49.362
28Boise City-Nampa, ID$1,142,35625.6%9.6$40,127$11,4126.4%49.308
29Duluth, MN-WI$899,79926.1%8.3$42,170$9,1565.3%49.155
30Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH$1,404,65522.9%9.4$57,307$18,2045.8%49.064
31Anchorage, AK$1,418,91524.7%8.9$52,231$16,7285.5%48.886
32New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA$1,290,36922.6%10.4$52,982$17,8686.3%48.860
33Oklahoma City, OK$995,32321.3%9.5$39,433$10,2124.0%48.857
34Amarillo, TX$1,071,73021.1%8.9$38,303$9,4323.3%48.825
35Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL$655,48018.8%14.1$38,508$14,7607.5%48.779
36Kansas City, MO-KS$1,410,02123.0%8.5$45,312$11,9645.4%48.656
37Lexington-Fayette, KY$1,399,61923.4%8.5$42,437$10,4885.7%48.584
38Richmond, VA$1,573,13225.8%7.9$46,351$13,5965.6%48.475
39Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY$1,396,13827.9%6.5$44,852$9,8525.4%48.451
40Madison, WI$1,232,26025.5%7.9$46,649$13,4284.2%48.407
41Naples-Marco Island, FL$554,64123.8%11.7$36,376$13,4285.4%48.388
42San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$1,796,83023.6%8.5$67,416$22,3326.6%48.314
43Syracuse, NY$1,421,16524.5%7.5$44,693$10,6205.1%48.300
44Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA$1,449,50124.2%7.6$44,947$11,4484.8%48.249
45San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA$559,83223.3%11.0$47,971$16,2605.0%48.188
46Manchester-Nashua, NH$1,047,23624.5%9.4$51,445$16,5725.3%48.082
47St. Louis, MO-IL$1,453,18424.5%8.0$45,545$11,4246.2%47.984
48Asheville, NC$564,96419.8%11.1$37,201$9,4805.2%47.943
49Wichita, KS$1,425,67024.0%7.8$41,838$9,8285.6%47.802
50Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH$1,228,09624.5%8.5$45,473$10,8126.8%47.772
51Scranton--Wilkes-Barre, PA$1,107,59728.1%7.0$40,042$9,2645.0%47.706
52Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, FL$588,18323.9%10.7$39,013$11,5566.0%47.678
53Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR$1,164,76622.6%8.7$40,288$9,8405.2%47.541
54New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA$1,507,43321.2%8.9$41,772$11,4245.9%47.420
55Corpus Christi, TX$1,404,57821.9%8.6$38,239$10,1765.0%47.391
56Reno-Sparks, NV$1,082,79627.0%9.4$42,228$13,1647.5%47.377
57Durham, NC$1,263,82423.1%8.3$45,793$11,7485.6%47.342
58Birmingham-Hoover, AL$1,482,20522.1%8.3$42,809$10,4646.1%47.100
59Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN$1,465,61421.9%8.5$41,637$10,2366.4%47.006
60Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD$1,511,79624.0%8.0$51,720$14,5806.7%46.590
61Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA$1,188,25125.5%8.8$48,110$14,3767.1%46.530
62Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY$1,048,67524.2%7.8$49,319$12,6125.0%46.503
63Lubbock, TX$866,10626.0%8.2$36,933$9,7684.7%46.500
64Lynchburg, VA$966,26427.9%7.2$39,050$9,2285.2%46.459
65Springfield, MA$999,16723.1%8.7$48,340$12,0966.3%46.393
66Baltimore-Towson, MD$1,125,04123.0%8.7$53,869$16,0805.6%46.324
67Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN$1,586,71021.6%7.9$45,557$11,6646.0%46.321
68Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA$949,05026.4%8.6$48,298$13,7286.8%46.104
69Greensboro-High Point, NC$1,440,70122.9%8.6$38,095$9,8047.0%46.073
70Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA$674,13323.6%10.8$50,946$17,7366.7%45.821
71Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI$1,371,77222.4%9.2$50,112$15,0607.5%45.811
72Springfield, MO$804,38421.6%9.5$35,956$8,8925.5%45.732
73Raleigh-Cary, NC$1,006,74023.2%8.7$48,473$13,2246.0%45.725
74Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO$1,290,80321.0%8.2$37,176$9,5764.4%45.720
75Akron, OH$1,067,32224.3%8.4$43,339$10,6086.9%45.495
76Ann Arbor, MI$783,58220.5%9.4$53,378$13,8486.0%45.464
77Lancaster, PA$1,016,84920.9%9.0$43,089$12,0125.0%45.351
78Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA$899,27923.6%8.1$39,799$8,1846.1%45.298
79Erie, PA$1,070,11626.3%7.0$39,713$8,9045.8%44.954
80Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX$1,687,16817.6%8.6$44,738$12,7445.5%44.945
81Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$1,146,80620.1%9.2$62,903$21,1205.1%44.772
82Spokane, WA$971,51527.6%7.2$42,225$10,6206.2%44.632
83Huntsville, AL$1,080,69422.8%7.6$46,449$10,0326.4%44.570
84Canton-Massillon, OH$1,100,05423.6%7.9$40,356$9,1206.5%44.536
85Eugene-Springfield, OR$748,95925.3%9.2$40,277$11,2447.4%44.429
86Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA$1,163,31719.6%10.2$45,784$13,8367.8%44.356
87Bremerton-Silverdale, WA$453,39128.1%8.1$51,034$15,1205.6%44.269
88Lansing-East Lansing, MI$1,379,77920.8%7.9$45,325$10,9326.5%44.230
89Austin-Round Rock, TX$1,282,86419.5%8.9$45,579$14,1605.3%44.226
90Rochester, NY$1,046,07724.4%7.2$44,559$11,2085.2%44.211
91Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI$1,238,24622.3%8.6$49,378$11,8088.7%44.181
92Columbus, OH$1,481,85619.2%7.9$45,639$11,8205.5%44.115
93Shreveport-Bossier City, LA$1,094,26923.0%7.3$38,744$8,8084.9%44.111
94Toledo, OH$1,242,83424.7%7.9$41,933$9,6848.3%44.110
95Indianapolis-Carmel, IN$1,348,84822.6%7.6$43,879$11,1726.4%44.030
96Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA$1,111,54521.3%7.6$36,175$7,1645.3%43.955
97Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL$919,98222.2%9.4$40,723$11,7846.8%43.814
98Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, WA$950,43328.1%5.8$45,884$11,0885.0%43.620
99Greeley, CO$967,07121.8%8.9$43,107$13,2605.5%43.608
100Waco, TX$1,337,73824.6%6.6$35,061$9,2764.6%43.578
101Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA$655,11821.1%11.0$51,226$19,4046.1%43.560
102Gainesville, FL$689,18224.8%8.1$40,062$10,9925.3%43.534
103Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN$1,100,52618.0%9.4$41,907$11,6285.7%43.528
104Jackson, MS$1,099,27620.7%8.6$38,000$9,7565.9%43.526
105Fort Smith, AR-OK$850,03520.4%8.5$33,834$7,5124.9%43.502
106Jacksonville, FL$1,163,95025.2%8.2$41,503$12,8167.0%43.362
107Colorado Springs, CO$750,26622.5%9.3$44,001$13,6326.0%43.185
108Lafayette, LA$949,48625.9%6.0$40,856$8,1245.0%43.148
109Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA$1,152,14820.8%10.6$44,383$17,7487.1%42.940
110Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL$709,11225.8%8.4$41,259$11,2807.1%42.915
111South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI$1,071,55123.6%7.7$40,571$9,3007.1%42.858
112Savannah, GA$932,22322.5%8.8$40,207$12,2046.0%42.829
113Montgomery, AL$985,79519.3%8.7$40,268$10,3205.5%42.719
114Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ$1,211,79123.0%7.6$46,495$13,2966.1%42.699
115Olympia, WA$609,37925.7%7.9$50,560$14,6885.8%42.641
116Utica-Rome, NY$888,88625.3%6.5$39,958$9,1324.9%42.580
117Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX$1,243,81017.2%9.0$44,653$13,0685.6%42.474
118Norwich-New London, CT$851,82323.3%7.9$52,031$15,4085.8%42.208
119Chattanooga, TN-GA$964,15819.3%8.7$39,192$9,3486.2%42.165
120Ogden-Clearfield, UT$760,22024.0%7.2$45,159$12,7684.3%42.138
121Dayton, OH$1,178,55821.4%7.6$42,767$10,3566.6%42.060
122Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH$1,492,22921.9%5.3$39,330$7,2364.6%42.056
123Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL$516,06422.1%10.2$37,975$11,5927.4%42.050
124Spartanburg, SC$1,296,57924.2%6.8$38,088$8,6887.0%42.011
125Mobile, AL$1,200,81420.4%8.4$38,569$9,7927.1%41.968
126Binghamton, NY$953,81222.0%7.0$41,698$9,1565.3%41.867
127Albuquerque, NM$978,60522.9%7.4$41,575$11,0525.6%41.775
128Knoxville, TN$1,174,76020.0%7.3$39,498$9,2645.2%41.667
129Charleston-North Charleston, SC$885,60622.9%8.8$40,898$12,6966.8%41.513
130New Haven-Milford, CT$916,18121.7%8.6$53,219$16,0447.1%41.395
131Provo-Orem, UT$606,09821.9%8.6$44,933$13,8244.9%41.391
132Orlando-Kissimmee, FL$919,16522.8%9.6$38,011$13,3927.6%41.278
133Kalamazoo-Portage, MI$879,98721.8%8.2$42,691$10,0207.5%41.179
134Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA$781,72024.3%9.3$44,336$17,8206.0%41.074
135Rockford, IL$1,011,80924.7%7.8$42,448$11,0528.3%41.063
136Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA$1,211,68221.3%9.7$51,434$21,3606.4%41.040
137Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ$1,171,68822.0%7.7$43,136$12,9486.1%40.931
138San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA$863,55522.7%9.3$48,609$18,4686.2%40.873
139Reading, PA$1,102,70922.9%7.4$43,317$11,9646.5%40.795
140Port St. Lucie, FL$550,16721.6%10.0$38,527$11,9287.9%40.444
141York-Hanover, PA$1,006,08820.7%7.7$45,042$12,4445.9%40.379
142Columbia, SC$1,010,82723.1%7.5$40,126$10,7286.8%40.193
143Worcester, MA$1,079,43622.2%7.0$52,413$14,4966.4%40.046
144Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC$892,66520.7%8.5$33,991$7,9687.4%40.003
145Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV$751,13822.6%7.8$43,695$11,8806.5%39.917
146Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC$1,532,54122.2%6.8$43,087$11,6647.7%39.849
147Ocala, FL$561,63321.9%8.8$33,989$8,9766.8%39.832
148Tucson, AZ$751,41622.8%7.7$40,195$10,7526.4%39.564
149Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, SC$1,032,15422.9%6.6$39,943$9,2646.4%39.487
150Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI$1,186,25623.0%6.4$43,204$10,8126.7%39.422
151Salem, OR$708,27327.6%7.4$38,887$11,4368.1%38.988
152Winston-Salem, NC$1,360,42822.4%6.1$39,514$9,3486.7%38.973
153Tallahassee, FL$583,91723.8%8.2$40,507$11,5327.4%38.954
154Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC$962,51224.7%6.8$42,981$15,0245.3%38.402
155Atlantic City, NJ$972,68627.3%7.6$43,706$15,6968.7%37.927
156Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC$589,45926.6%7.3$34,878$10,3447.1%37.855
157Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA$905,65420.9%8.3$50,613$15,6488.0%37.797
158San Antonio, TX$836,61817.8%7.9$39,069$11,0165.0%37.736
159Honolulu, HI$967,70122.8%7.7$44,790$19,6923.7%37.636
160Lakeland, FL$1,027,23921.9%7.4$35,707$10,0807.1%37.583
161Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL$648,82321.9%8.1$37,544$11,1846.8%37.340
162Memphis, TN-MS-AR$1,246,25117.9%7.8$40,980$11,3767.5%37.255
163Flint, MI$950,35420.0%8.0$42,099$9,6009.3%37.187
164Laredo, TX$487,48219.4%8.3$30,461$10,0084.1%37.132
165Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC$883,90419.4%7.2$40,170$9,7206.4%36.986
166Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL$495,35021.7%7.8$36,825$10,9446.0%36.506
167Columbus, GA-AL$986,13319.7%7.3$35,826$10,2966.5%35.892
168Salinas, CA$760,64823.9%7.5$41,561$16,4886.7%34.608
169El Paso, TX$758,28916.2%7.7$32,279$9,1325.2%34.412
170Las Vegas-Paradise, NV$1,026,31821.0%7.7$40,439$13,8608.4%34.122
171Clarksville, TN-KY$785,24421.9%6.1$37,547$10,3686.3%33.904
172Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX$976,37821.6%5.1$37,279$10,9085.2%32.549
173Fresno, CA$872,78324.0%6.3$39,710$12,0728.9%32.110
174Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$1,071,79320.7%6.6$51,496$18,2047.6%31.880
175Fayetteville, NC$734,10223.2%5.8$36,014$11,0287.4%30.977
176Brownsville-Harlingen, TX$446,45716.3%7.3$29,044$7,4525.8%30.921
177McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX$413,14713.2%8.3$28,771$7,4526.3%30.145
178Bakersfield, CA$953,81719.0%6.3$40,372$12,0608.1%29.817
179Gulfport-Biloxi, MS$781,50919.6%5.4$36,919$10,1166.2%29.815
180Modesto, CA$994,69124.1%6.0$42,985$13,64410.5%29.805
181Stockton, CA$1,055,96323.0%5.9$44,382$14,80810.1%28.937
182Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA$749,41817.6%7.3$43,407$15,9489.0%26.620
183Visalia-Porterville, CA$759,69021.8%5.6$35,386$11,4249.0%26.373


NerdWallet analyzed 183 metropolitan areas with 15,000 or more businesses and populations over 250,000. The overall score for each place was calculated with the following metrics:

Business environment is 60% of the overall score. This is based on three data points from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey:

Average revenue of businesses. Higher revenue led to a higher score. This is 15% of the score.
Percent of businesses with paid employees. A larger percentage led to a higher score. This is 15% of the score.
Number of businesses per 100 people. A higher number led to a higher score. This is 30% of the score.

Economic landscape is 40% of the overall score. This is based on three data points from the American Community Survey:

Median annual income. A higher income led to a higher score. This is 15% of the score.
Median annual housing cost. A lower cost led to a higher score. This is 15% of the score.
Unemployment rate. Lower unemployment rates led to a higher score. This is 10% of the score.

For more information on starting a small business, check out NerdWallet’s small business guide.


Infographic by Brian Yee.

Downtown Boulder, Colorado, image via iStock.