Thinking about starting your own business? Here are 10 reasons why Pennsylvania is a great state to launch a small business.
Pennsylvania holds the headquarters to some of the country’s biggest companies, including Rite Aid, Comcast, Aramark and T-Mobile. But PA is also a place where small businesses and startups can successfully launch and thrive. There are nearly 1 million small businesses in PA — those having 500 or fewer employees. In 2014, small business employees accounted for nearly half of the state’s workforce, according to data from the PA Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). Livability spoke with Francene Pisano Dudziec, director of marketing and communication for the PA SBDC at Kutztown University, in Kutztown, PA, about what makes the Keystone State so great for small businesses. She offers 10 reasons that just might entice you to start something in PA as well.
1. There’s a lot of support for small businesses in PA.
PA SBDCs have 16 centers across the state to support its small businesses in all areas. “We can assist small businesses with everything from startup to employee retention,” says Dudziec. The SBDC also offers confidential one-on-one consulting to employers for personalized assistance. In addition to the SBDCs, employers can look to companies like Dreamit Ventures in Philadelphia and AlphaLab in Pittsburgh for help with scaling startups.
2. PA is in a geographically desirable location.
PA is wedged between several of America’s largest cities, providing easy access to New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Cleveland. This accessibility comes “without having to have the cost of living and the cost of running a business out of New Jersey or New York,” says Dudziec. Customers within a wide geographic location are able to make it to PA, which could potentially decrease a small business’s dependence on shipping. Finally, there are many business-to-business suppliers within the region as well, in particular for manufacturing and warehousing.
3. Tax incentives exist for small business entrepreneurs in PA.
“In various cities or counties, there are often tax incentives for building a business, opening a business or having a warehouse there,” says Dudziec. These tax incentives vary by area. Consultants from SBDC can assist, including locating the required permits and obtaining licensing that’s specific to the area.
4. Homeownership is attainable in PA.
The average prices of owning and renting a home in PA are both lower than the national average, according to the PA Department of Community and Economic Development. The average price of owning a home in PA is $155,500, compared to an average of $189,400 nationally. “There’s a lot of areas that are less than $100K, in the rural regions,” says Dudziec. “It is fairly affordable, living throughout the whole state, especially compared to areas around us.” For renters, the median home rental value is $1,236, compared to a median of $1,411 nationally. Of course, prices will vary depending on whether you are in an urban, suburban or rural environment.
5. It’s possible to earn a middle-income salary while self-employed.
Starting up a small business can be like taking a leap with your finances. However, it is possible to earn a middle-income salary while self-employed in PA. The median for someone who is self-employed in PA with an incorporated business is $52,000, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. “That’s a livable salary in a lot of locations around here,” says Dudziec, although she notes the cost of living in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can be higher.
6. The commute is pretty reasonable.
We’d all like to spend less time on our morning commute. According to the 2019 Census, the mean travel time to work in PA is 27.2 minutes. (Of course, this will vary based on your location.) If work requires you to travel farther afield, there are various trains and buses going between different points in PA and NYC. Additionally, Amtrak provides service out of Pittsburgh to Cleveland and D.C., as well as from Philadelphia to Baltimore. “Within a few hours you can do business, easily have meetings, without having to stay overnight or travel far,” says Dudziec.
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7. PA is home to international and domestic airports.
Need to attend a business meeting in London? (Or head to Cancun for vacation?) “There are a lot of airports that can get you in and out to any of the major markets,” says Dudziec. She estimated that wherever you need to go, it is possible to be on your way to catch a flight in less than two hours. PA is home to the Philadelphia International Airport and the Pittsburgh International Airport, which both offered many international flights in pre-pandemic times. Domestic flights leave out of both of those airports, as well as smaller ones Allentown, Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre, among others. Eastern PA is also within driving distance of Newark International Airport in Newark, N.J., and Dulles International Airport, in Washington, D.C.
8. There’s a highly-educated employee pool to recruit from.
“There are a lot of colleges and universities in PA that offer an educated workforce,” Dudziec says. PA is home to a number of the country’s most distinguished colleges: The University of Pennsylvania (an Ivy League school) is in Philadelphia, Carnegie Mellon University is located in Pittsburgh and Swarthmore College is outside of Philadelphia. (You can easily compare the education level — and a lot of other demographic data — of various communities in PA on the DCED website.)
9. PA has four seasons, making for a variety of business opportunities.
“Our state has the luxury of four distinct seasons,” explains Dudziec, noting that businesses focusing on recreation can have different opportunities during winter and summer. In addition to restaurants, breweries and casinos, PA is home to numerous ski resorts, national parks and lakes. The Poconos are the site of many of the outdoor recreation resorts, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds; the area is also home to many summer residents. “There’s a lot of little communities that can offer tourism businesses.”
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10. There are mentorship opportunities across PA.
All businesses can use a helping hand sometimes and fortunately, there are volunteer-run SCORE groups throughout PA. SCORE is a nonprofit that partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide mentorship and education for small businesses at no or low cost. There are SCORE groups in the larger cities as well as Bucks County, Northeast Pennsylvania and Central Pennsylvania.
This article was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.