Best Places to Live

2017 Best Cities for Entrepreneurs

You might joke that entrepreneurs tend to live at their businesses. The level of dedication – regardless of business sector – required for a successful new venture usually means some long hours at the office. Of course even the most stalwart starter-uppers head home at some point. But where should that home be?

It was a question posed to us by our friends at Entrepreneur as we started gathering data for our second annual list. What would make a city a great home for an entrepreneur? 

Starting with a universe of more than 2,000 small- to mid-sized cities, we narrowed our field to the Top 50 Best Cities for Entrepreneurs. We consulted with our economic development experts at Livability to select just the right indicators for a city that is both a great place to work and to live. First, it had to be a good city to start a business – one that supports startups and has a community of similarly-driven people. We looked for cities with high levels of SBA loans, creative class workers, broadband technology and transportation infrastructure to support new businesses. To grow the business you need talent, so we analyzed cities that had low levels of unemployment and economic inequality, diverse demographics and affordable housing. Areas with plenty to do at night with cultural and entertainment options scored well too. Finally, we added in a variety of quality-of-life indicators about crime, schools, health care and commute time.

We ranked the cities based on these 15 data points and used that as a short list. From there, our editors selected the top 50 from that group to ensure we had a good mix of cities in terms of size and geography. The final Top 50 Best Cities for Entrepreneurs are therefore a collection of cities that are ideal crucibles for a new business venture to start and thrive and for entrepreneurs to settle in, put down some roots and maybe even grow a family.

  • 11

    Provo, UT

    Population: 115,345
    Photo: UtahValley.com

    A growing job market, Google Fiber, healthy living and outdoor recreation at every corner, it’s no wonder Provo has been ranked on our Top 100 Best Places to Live and Top 10 Best Downtowns. For this list, the city ranked in the top 15 for small business loans and top 10 for affordable housing. Known for its foods trucks galore, Provo is an affordable place to eat well, ranking in the top 10 for per capita food spending. While affordable housing is at the top of the rankings for this city, getting around ain’t bad either, it ranked in the top 15 for commute time and top 20 for transportation affordability.

  • 12

    Burlington, VT

    Population: 42,570

    Courtesy of Scott Smithson under a CC 2.0 license.

    Burlington is not only the birthplace of the ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s, but the birthplace of many burgeoning businesses. The college town made this list for its affordability; it ranked in the top 10 for both affordable housing and per capita food spending. It also ranked in the top 20 for high wage job growth, and in the top 20 for both commute times and transportation affordability, not to mention easy access to broadband. Burlington is also great for the palate, ranking on our Top 10 Best Foodie Cities two years in a row, as well as our Top 10 College Towns and Top 10 Best Downtowns.

     

  • 13

    Portland, ME

    Population: 66,490

    Courtesy of Onasill Bill Badzo under a CC 2.0 license.

    Coastal scenes, culture and a climate ripe for entrepreneurs puts Portland on our 2017 list. Outside the hustle of bigger East Coast cities, Portland boasts the charms of New England with the conveniences of larger metros and a bustling culture scene. The city is full of entrepreneurial spirit, ranking in the top 20 on this list for small business loans and offers easy access to broadband. It’s also a fairly affordable city, ranking in the top 20 for food spending, as well as in the top 20 for commute time and affordable transportation. Portland has ranked on our Top 100 Best Places to Live for two years in a row so far, as well as our 99 Beer Cities.

  • 14

    Beaverton, OR

    Population: 93,919

    Courtesy of M.O. Stevens under a CC 3.0 license.

    Part of Silicon Forest and just outside Portland, Beaverton is home to several technology companies. This city ranked in the top 20 for small business loans, is a safe haven to live and offers access to high speed internet. It ranked in the top 15 for household income growth and the top 10 for commute time. Beaverton also ranked on our 2015 Top 100 Best Places to Live list.

     

  • 15

    Gainesville, FL

    Population: 127,559
    Jeff Adkins

    This college town is a mecca for things to do like the arts, easy access to the beach and even Disney World; but Gainesville is also gaining a name for itself in the startup community. The best part? It’s a really affordable place to live and do business. The city ranked in the top 3 for food spending and the top 20 for affordable housing, the commute time is a cinch, ranking in the top 10, and the city offers easy access to broadband. The Florida town has made it on our Top 100 Best Places to Live and the Top 10 Best Colleges Towns.

  • 16

    Columbia, MO

    Population: 115,391
    DJ Schulte

    Once again ranked on our Top 10 Best College Towns, Columbia is a college town turned vibrant small city with a booming high-tech sector. Dubbed the “Athens of Missouri,” this city ranks in the top 10 for small business loans on our list and the top 15 for a low unemployment rate. This city is an ideal place to plant roots and get to work, with high wage job growth ranking in the top 15, not to mention affordable housing and food spend ranking in the top 15. Need more proof? Columbia has ranked on our Top 100 Places to Live three years in a row so far.

     

  • 17

    Madison, WI

    Population: 243,122
    City of Madison

    Madison is rich in business headquarters, research, talent and new businesses… and the cheese isn’t bad either. This midwestern city ranked in the top 3 for small business loans on our list. Both creative and tech-savvy, this city ranks in the top 15 for creative class workers and the top 20 for educational attainment. Also worth noting is its top 20 ranking for jobs, as well as for household income growth. Madison has ranked on our Top 100 Best Places to Live three years in a row, as well as placed on our Top 10 College Towns and Top 10 Healthiest Cities.

  • 18

    White Plains, NY

    Population: 57,790
    Westchester County Tourism & Film

    First off, White Plains has ranked on our Top 100 Best Places to Live, for three years running. This city, just 35 minutes outside of Manhattan is home to national and international business, bringing in hundreds of thousands of commuters every day. In fact, White Plains ranked high on our list for transportation affordability, in the top 10. The city ranked in the top 30 for both creative class workers and culture, and it offers access to high speed internet, making it an ideal place to start a business outside the city.

  • 19

    Palo Alto, CA

    Population: 66,478
    Matt Carmichael

    Situated just 35 miles south of San Francisco and just north of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto is (as you may know) the mecca for startups. This diverse town strikes a chord with the especially creative and intellectual types, ranking in the number 1 spot for creative class workers. With Stanford University nearby, it came in at the number 2 spot for educational attainment, and offers access to high speed internet. And as far as the livability spectrum, Palo Alto scored the second spot for culture as well. It has ranked three years in a row on our Top 100 Best Places to Live, as well as our 10 Best Cities for Families.

     

  • 20

    Cambridge, MA

    Population: 107,916
    Photo by Ivo Gretener Photography

    Just across the river from Boston, this city is known for its tech scene and higher education institutions – Harvard University and MIT. It’s also known for it’s great neighborhoods, cultural attractions and bustling nightlife. That’s why it landed on our Top 100 Best Places to Live and our Top 10 Best College Towns. For this list, Cambridge ranked high on the charts for creative class workers (top 3) and educational attainment (top 3). This diverse city also ranked high on the culture scale, coming in at the 3rd spot on the list. The city ranked in the top 2 for transportation affordability and the top 20 for both small business loans and low unemployment. The city also offers easy access to broadband.