What kind of American city is the best for small business? They're the ones that have prosperous economies, are expanding rapidly, and are densely packed with like-minded entrepreneurs. And the top two are in North Carolina.
The two markets with the nation's top scores for small-business vitality, according to a new BizJournals study, sit 140 miles apart in the Tar Heel State. Raleigh is No. 1 in the national rankings, while Charlotte is No. 2.
BizJournals used a six-part formula to analyze the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas, searching for the places that are most conducive to the creation and development of small businesses.
The two North Carolina markets emerge as the clear leaders, thanks to their outstanding records in four statistical categories with a direct impact on small-business activity:
1.Population: Raleigh and Charlotte picked up a combined total of 427,000 new residents between 2002 and 2007. Raleigh grew by 21.2 percent in that five-year period, Charlotte by 17.4 percent. Both dwarfed the national growth rate of 4.8 percent.
2. Employment: The entire country is endangered by the current recession. But Raleigh cushioned any future blow with outstanding job growth during the 2003-08 span—23 percent in Raleigh, 15.4 percent in Charlotte. The U.S. gain was 5.8 percent.
3. Small-business growth: The number of small businesses grew dramatically in both markets from 2005 to 2006, the latest period covered by official statistics. Raleigh led the way with a 4.6 percent rise, followed by Charlotte at 4 percent. The national increase was 1.3 percent.
4. Small-business concentration: The typical U.S. market has 24.57 small businesses for every 1,000 residents. The North Carolina markets enjoy concentrations that are at least 10 percent bigger, with Raleigh at 27.58 per 1,000, Charlotte at 27.07.
And that's not all. Two other markets with North Carolina connections rank among the 30 best metros in the study, Greensboro and the Virginia Beach-Norfolk metro.
The highest scores went to areas that have prosperous economies, are expanding rapidly, and are densely packed with small businesses.
Raleigh is the only market to rank among the top 10 in four key categories: growth rates for small businesses and population, and one- and five-year increases in employment.
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