Our 2019 rankings of the Best Cities for Small Businesses identify the top 10 cities where small businesses thrive. There are cities across the country where small businesses have an important foothold in the local economies.
For the purposes of these rankings, small businesses are defined as those with fewer than 50 employees.
Our rankings are based on our latest research of U.S. Census data. The rankings reflect the percentage of small businesses to the overall population in metropolitan areas of the United States with over 50,000 people. We also identify factors such as industry clusters, lifestyle, infrastructure, costs, workforce availability and a thriving entrepreneurial community nearby.
Miami is a city of contrasts — a huge metropolis that is also a haven for small business. You will find 134,332 small business owners in the metro area. They make up 2.20% of the population, earning Miami the top spot this year.
The city offers not only a welcoming environment for small businesses but a feast for the eyes as well. The city is home to the largest collection of art deco architecture in the world. Most of the city’s buildings were constructed between 1923 and 1943 so visiting the city is like stepping back in time.
One of the advantages of Miami small businesses is the growing population. Florida itself is the third most populated state, and growth has exploded.
“Alligator Alley or simply ‘the Alley’ is the local name for the portion of I-75 that runs between Miami on the east coast, and Naples and Fort Myers on Florida’s west coast. The easy 2-hour drive across the Alley enables small businesses such as landscapers, electricians, IT consultants, interior designers and others to serve both coasts, widening their markets. When I first moved here I was surprised at the amount of daily crossover among niche service providers,” says Anita Campbell, founder of Small Business Trends Media, which is headquartered in Naples, Florida.
2. New York
With the iconic Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, it’s easy to think of New York City as huge and focused on big businesses. But this city is also big for small businesses. A total of 411,323 small business owners live and work in the metro area, making up 2.03% of the total population. Leading industries are professional, scientific and technical services.
While it may seem large and intimidating to some in other parts of the country, local entrepreneurs tout the support system for small businesses. “You’ve got the NYC Department of Small Business Services all the way to an SBA office, a SCORE office, and a huge menu of entrepreneur and small business organizations such as NAWBO, BNI, Unfair Advantage, Adrian’s Network and many more,” says Ramon Ray, entrepreneur and author of Celebrity CEO.
Though best known today for its hipster culture, Portland also deserves credit for the small businesses it nurtures. There are 44,407 small business owners who live and operate companies in the metro area. They make up 1.83% of the city’s population and work in the professional, scientific and technical services.
The Portland Business Alliance offers free small business advice and a small business management scholarship program among other features.
4. Los Angeles
It may be a sprawling metropolis, but within this massive city, small businesses have definitely found a home. Los Angeles has 243,461 small business entrepreneurs making up 1.83% of the metro area’s population. They are mainly in the professional, scientific and technical services.
Despite its size, this metropolis also offers a wealth of resources aimed directly at the small business community. For example, Los Angeles County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs maintains an Office of Small Business offering small business events, reference programs and procurement of technical assistance.
5. San Francisco
The city by the bay may be known for its Victorian architecture. But San Francisco should also be known for the small business entrepreneurs who are building companies every bit as important to the city’s character. In fact, 84,324 small business owners make the metro area their home. That’s 1.79% of the region’s population, working in the professional, scientific and technical services.
San Francisco also offers a variety of resources for its small business community, perhaps most notably an annual Small Business Expo that has been going on since 2008.
Boulder, Colorado may be better known as the home for startup incubators like Techstars. But Denver may be the place to start your small business. 50,619 small business entrepreneurs call the city home. That’s 1.77% of the population, working in the professional, scientific and technical services.
The city provides not just a great small business atmosphere but great attractions to interest just about everyone and make it easier for you to recruit talent. Attractions include rock climbing, the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, the Denver Botanical Gardens and more.
Home to the iconic Pike Place Market, one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the U.S., Seattle’s support of small business probably shouldn’t be a surprise. There are 66,393 small business entrepreneurs here, making up 1.75% of the population. They are largely in the professional, scientific and technical services.
The city is a springboard to growth. It’s home to many small businesses that grew to become behemoths. For example, three friends started a small coffee roaster across the street from Pike Place Market in 1971 and named it after a character in Moby Dick. The business would eventually become the global cafe chain Starbucks!
8. Salt Lake City
Did you know Salt Lake City consumes more JELL-O per capita than anywhere else on earth?Still its record supporting small business may be more important here. And 20,320 small business owners call the city home, accounting for 1.71% of the population. They are concentrated in the professional, scientific and technical services.
Robert Brady, Founder of Righteous Marketing says the city’s success in nurturing smaller companies alongside tech giants shouldn’t come as a shock. “While many people hear about the big national success stories like Pluralsight, there are numerous small businesses succeeding here.”
The home of the Boston Red Sox also hosts some serious small business entrepreneurship. There are 81,517 small business owners in the metro area, about 1.70% of the population. You will find many working in the professional, scientific and technical services.
The city is not just a great place for small businesses, however. As one of America’s oldest cities, it is also packed with history. For example, the first lighthouse in America stands in Boston Bay and the city is also home to the oldest public park in the U.S., Boston Commons.
10. Oklahoma City
Oklahoma’s state capital is full of entrepreneurial activity with 22,969 small business entrepreneurs in the metro area making up 1.67% of the population and largely in the professional, scientific and technical services.
A great place for small business, the city also has some fascinating business history. For example, Sylvan Goldman, founder of the city’s iconic Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain actually developed the first shopping cart (which he called a folding basket carrier) in 1937 to make it easier for his customers to carry groceries.
Methodology for Best 10 Cities for Small Businesses
With 30 million small businesses in the U.S., you can find small businesses virtually everywhere in this great country. But if you’re looking for an area welcoming to small businesses, these top 10 cities should be on your list to consider.
Our Best Cities for Small Businesses, 2019 rankings are based primarily on our proprietary analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE) and Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places of 50,000 or More.
Cities were ranked on the percentage of entrepreneurs in each category rather than the number of entrepreneurs. However, other data we reviewed based on information available to us included:
- Industry clusters
- Other startups nearby
Check out our infographic below for a shareable summary of the best cities for small businesses.