Entrepreneurs looking for a place to base their operations can take their pick from cities across the country that are business friendly and affordable at the same time. A recent study from WalletHub ranked the best cities to start a business based on 19 key metrics across three categories: business environment, access to resources, and business cost. Cheapism used that study and weeded out any cities with a cost of living greater than 5 percent above the national average. Finally, Cheapism conducted its own research to tell ambitious entrepreneurs more about what they can expect to find if they do ever decide to set up shop in any of these business-friendly hotspots.
Although Oklahoma City remains one of the world's largest livestock markets, the energy industry plays a major role in the city's economy. Several major colleges and universities call OKC home, the tech industry is a big economic driver, and both Midfirst Bank and Hobby Lobby are headquartered in the Midwest cultural hotspot.
SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA
In 2018, Forbes ranked Sioux Falls as the No. 1 city in the entire country for business and careers. The local economy, long dominated by quarrying and agriculture, has diversified considerably in recent years — the health care and financial services industries are now major players in the city.
With a 46 percent college attainment rate, the city of Missoula has a highly educated workforce. That could be because the University of Montana is the largest employer in the city. The state's largest brewery is located there, and tourism plays a major role in the local economy along with education.
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA
Education, technology and health care dominate the economy in Durham, which is famous for being the home of Duke University and North Carolina Central University. The cost of living there is slightly below average, and entrepreneurs looking for an educated workforce will have plenty to choose from thanks to the city's nearly 47 percent college attainment rate.
BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA
With a cost of living a little below the national average, Bismarck is the capital city, which is reflected by the fact that the government is one of the top employers in the region. The financial services and health care industries are also major players in the economy, unemployment is under 3 percent, and about 1 in 3 residents are college-educated.
With just under 100,000 residents, the Cheyenne metro region relies heavily on the energy, defense, and transportation industries, the latter of which can be traced to the fact that the railroad industry has had deep roots in the area for generations. Thanks to a major Air Force presence, entrepreneurs there will likely receive plenty of resumes from people with military backgrounds.
In terms of trade, distribution, and retail, Billings is the main hub for not just all of Montana, but also much of the western portions of both Dakotas. Entrepreneurs there might benefit from the area's draw as a destination for conventions, as well as the significant contributions of the financial services, energy, and transportation industries.
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
The second-largest banking hub in America next to only New York City, Charlotte is experiencing job growth nearing 3 percent. With a college attainment rate over 35 percent, the region is packed with higher-learning institutions, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
The cost of living in Grand Rapids is 5 percent below the national average, and the median home price is less than $200,000. No fewer than five of the largest furniture companies in the world are headquartered there, which has earned Grand Rapids the nickname Furniture City.
Both job growth and unemployment sit at 3.2 percent in Orlando, a city dominated by the technology, tourism, defense, and aerospace industries. Both SeaWorld and Universal Orlando are there, drawing tourists from around the world. Home to several major institutions of higher learning, about 1 in 3 Orlando residents are college-educated.
The cost of living in Springfield is a full 9 percent below the national average, and while the median household income is low, the median home price is just $143,000. The cultural and economic heart of the Ozarks, Springfield's economy is buoyed by the agribusiness, health care and tourism industries.
The cost of living in Casper floats around the national average, and entrepreneurs who base their operations there will find that about 1 resident in 4 is college-educated. The financial services and energy industries dominate the city's economy, the latter of which has benefited from recent developments in coal and uranium mining.
If a business owner is looking to draw talent to Laredo, the city's low cost of living — 9 percent below the national average — should be a good incentive. Although the median household income is low, the median home price is less than $140,000.
With a population just shy of 6 million, the Atlanta metro region is a city on the rise. The city gained nearly 15,000 residents in 2017 alone and job growth is moving along at 2.3 percent. A major hub of both business and transportation, companies like Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and UPS are all headquartered there.
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Although the cost of living floats around the national average, the median household income is high in Raleigh, which Forbes named the No. 2 best city in America for business and careers. The metro region boasts a college attainment rate over 46 percent. Along with education, the health care and technology industries drive the local economy.