Not all states are created equal when it comes to where to start a new small business. Some states, not surprisingly, are a better fit for budding entrepreneurs than others. Now you might think that “better” means “cheaper,” or “lower taxes,” but these days that’s not all that matters for a small business. While both the cost of living and lower taxes are among six key factors that attract small businesses to a particular state, according to CNBC, it’s also important to look at the regulatory environment, available talent pool, access to funding, and investment in infrastructure.
To help determine which states can make your life as a small business owner simpler, consider the rankings of these “best” or “top” states for business from Forbes and CNBC, as well as the Thumbtack Small Business Friendliness Survey, which in 2018 included data from over 7,500 U.S. small business owners who rated their states across nine categories (ranging from ease of starting a business to licensing regulations, training and networking programs, and more). Utilizing a combination of the ratings from these three sources, here are five of the best states to start—or grow—your small business.
As the only state to appear among the top five states in all three data sources—Forbes, CNBC, and Thumbtack—the Beehive State is a prime spot to launch a small business. Utah is in a strong position economically, and offers added benefits like low business costs and an extremely small business-friendly environment. As Forbes noted, “Utah tech companies are aided by energy costs 15% below the national average, per Moody’s Analytics.”
In an editorial for Deseret News, Derek B. Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance, pointed to four elements that make Utah a great home for small businesses: an educated workforce, low taxes and regulation, incentives for job creation and sustainable growth, and an economy that benefits from a healthy amount of international trade.
There are plenty of reasons to settle your small business in Texas. Forbes ranked Texas #3 overall but gave the state the #1 ranking for growth prospects, while also stating, “Employment, income and economic forecasts for the [Lone Star] State all rate among the top four in the nation.” Texas also has excellent infrastructure to support budding businesses—most notably, its prosperous cities like Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.
Texas is one of only eight states that received an A or better overall in the Thumbtack survey. The other A+/A ratings—in order of overall friendliness to small businesses—went to South Dakota, Tennessee, Alaska, Michigan, Utah, Georgia, and South Carolina.
3. North Carolina
If it’s southern hospitality you’re seeking, then the Tar Heel State definitely should be on your list. For the second consecutive year, Forbes rated North Carolina #1 in the nation overall as the top state for business, noting, “North Carolina’s labor, energy and tax costs are all well below the national average and rank as the second lowest in the U.S. overall, per Moody’s Analytics.” North Carolina was the only state to rank among the top 12 states in all six categories that Forbes ranks, including a #2 ranking for business costs.
In the CNBC ratings, North Carolina ranked among the top 10 states both overall and for its economy and the quality of its workforce. And the state received an A rating in the Thumbtack survey for the friendliness of its employment, labor, and hiring regulations.
If you’re looking for a business-friendly environment in which to launch your business, perhaps Virginia is the place for you: In the Forbes survey, Virginia ranked #4 overall, while ranking #1 both for its regulatory environment and for its quality of life; its labor supply was ranked #3.
Along with its other virtues, the Mother of Presidents (eight U.S. presidents have been born in Virginia) offers an appealing consistency: Virginia has taken the #1 spot on the Forbes list five times since the rankings began in 2006. (Utah has claimed the Forbes #1 spot six times, and North Carolina has ranked #1 in both 2018 and 2017.)
Adding to the list of southern states that also are top states for business, Georgia ranked among the top 10 states across all three surveys. Coming in at #6 on Forbes‘ 2018 list, the Peach State was ranked #5 for its economic climate, and also ranked among the top 10 for its regulatory environment and growth prospects. In CNBC’s survey, Georgia came in at #7 overall, but was rated higher for its economy (#2), infrastructure (#3), and work force (#4).
Specific to small business, Georgia continued its strong performance in the Thumbtack survey, earning an A for overall friendliness to small business, along with As for licensing and ease of starting a business, plus an A+ for ease of hiring.
Where do you own a small business, and how did you choose your location? Let us know in the comments below.
Next Steps: As a small business owner, you’re busy. We get that. Let us do some of the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business. Sign up today to start receiving your weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter—filled with the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.