Being originally from farm-town USA, I understand the woes of being a connection-less entrepreneur. People don’t understand your mindset. They don’t get why you don’t want to marry your high school sweetheart and take over the family business. Why would you ever leave these fields of dreams? Don’t you want to be buried here? While I went through a Country phase in high school, tractors and cow shit aren’t really my thing. I prefer mountain trails and artsy cafes. Which is why I’m a freelance writer and not a farmer.
This is why the Northwest United States is now my home. I get the beauty of the Cascades and the opportunities to network all in one place.
If you’re looking for a city where opportunities abound, I’ve got the goods. It may not be my city (although two PNW cities are on this list), but I guarantee that any one of these cities will give you ample opportunity to network and enhance your career.
What Makes a Great City for Young Entrepreneurs?
I’ve lived in various small cities around the country and one thing I’ve realized, they all wish for young leadership while pushing young people out of their cities. Where do young people migrate to when small town USA decides they’re not welcome? Cities.
These cities are full of fellow young Entrepreneurs aged 25-35. More young people in these cities have at least a bachelor’s degree and many of them have gone on to earn professional or graduate degrees.
The Millennial unemployment rate is atrocious at 12.8 percent. The unemployment rate for Millennials in each of these cities sits at 10% or lower.
Another metric to consider when looking at entrepreneur-friendly cities is the income to rent ratio. If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, you may not have much money. Even the show Silicon Valley overinflates what small band of entrepreneurs could afford in the valley.
You want a city where rent and bills don’t eat up all your income.
The last metric to consider is the number of start-ups recently born in the area. One of the first cities on the list is prime to be the next Silicon Valley.
1. St. Petersburg, Florida
Home to MoneyHoarder.com and a host of other online startups, St. Petersburg is a growing and hip metropolis. With Tampa and some lower-priced suburbs nearby, rent is fairly cheap compared to Silicon Valley.
The greater Tampa Bay Area is listed as one of the top places for women to start a business. In our current culture of misogyny, this is an important aspect to consider.
St. Pete’s is still small enough to create an easier atmosphere in which to network and yet it’s growing at a phenomenal rate. It’s the fourth fastest growing job market in the U.S.
On top of all, you get to hang out in a hip downtown full fo grunge and hipster bars and cafes. The beaches are chill and the party almost never stops.
2. Alexandria, Virginia
Just across the river from D.C., Alexandria recently became the place entrepreneurs fled to after realizing D.C. was too expensive. All the power brokers are there.
Alexandria is in the top ten in unemployment rates in the country. And they earned a top-20 spot for small business loans and diversity.
Property prices are cheaper than across the river in the District.
Biggest downside? If the nation’s capital gets hit by a nuclear attack, you’re screwed. Other than that, the small city feel of Alexandria will attract Millennials who are sick of city congestion and expense.
3. Austin, Texas
Austin once tried to outlaw Uber. They succeeded for a while, but Texas said no. And yet Austin is known as a Millennial haven.
It’s the 11th most populous city in the United States. Almost 20% of that population is between the ages of 25 and 34. This is one of the most Millennial-populated cities in the United States.
Known just as much as Portland, Oregon for their brunches (with a Southwest touch — hot sauce, anyone?), you’ll leave your office and encounter food carts and hip bars galore.
Why else would you want to move to Austin? Well, Texas is one of the few U.S. states that don’t charge personal or corporate income tax. This means you will only have to worry about Federal income tax come April.
4. Boulder, Colorado
Once known as yuppy capital of the U.S. and the birthplace of 4/20, Boulder has grown up a little bit. Often when you have a major research University nearby, things look up for local entrepreneurs.
If you move to Boulder, you’ll find a Techstars accelerator, and an entrepreneurship and innovation center. Median household income is around $70k and the average rent for a single family home (not an apartment like in the Bay Area, mind you) is $2,204. And unemployment is at an all-time low.
You’re only 30 minutes from Denver and just an hour from some of the best skiing in the world. And if Boulder is too big for your liking, you could move to Lyons and commute 30 minutes.
If you love trails, you’ll have your fill and find plenty of people who just love the outdoors. And it’s one of the most educated cities in the state with 60% of people owning a bachelor’s degree or higher.
5. Ann Arbor, Michigan
Having grown up in Indiana and Michigan, I always thought of the east side of Michigan as the ghetto. And Flint hasn’t done much to bolster that image. But Ann Arbor is worlds apart from Detroit and all it’s famous for.
While I’m biased toward several cities on the west side, Ann Arbor is still ranked #1 in Michigan for entrepreneurial achievement. And my love of Notre Dame doesn’t dampen the fact that the University of Michigan has helped change the landscape in Ann Arbor for local residents.
6. San Diego, California
A major U.S. port that features a massive Naval Base and the San Diego Zoo, San Diego is mainly known for it’s tourism and mild weather. The latter is a major perk for anyone wanting a great place to chill. But what makes San Diego so great for Millennial entrepreneurs?
Tijuana. Across the border is a less regulated world of tech startups where you can get your app or program developed for a third the price. Plus, you’ll learn some Spanish just by being near Mexico.
And if you’re looking for a more affordable place to live in California, San Diego hit the spot. While places like La Jolla and Del Mar might be prime for luxury real estate, you can find cheaper land out by the North Park and South Park neighborhoods in San Diego for a fraction of the price.
San Diego isn’t up there with Austin as far as the rent to income ratio, but it’s nowhere near the insanity of Silicon Valley.
7. Ames, Iowa
If you’re one to get vertigo just looking at mountains and cliff-side villas, then Iowa might be your destination city. It’s home to Iowa State, the first land-grant university in the United States.
About 60k residents (half of which are students), Ames, Iowa features a population of 20-35-year-olds in the 30% percent range.
Almost 50% of the population owns a bachelors degree or higher making their children of the corn possibly the most likely to succeed. And the town itself features the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship.
The Papajohn Center calls their entrepreneur network the Entrebold network. They believe correctly you need to be bold to be an entrepreneur and they want the people in their network to act boldly.
They feature weekly and monthly events for entrepreneurs, bringing in speakers and putting on workshops.
8. Seattle, Washington
While possibly more young people live in Portland, Oregon, Seattle still takes the cake when it comes to entrepreneurship. While only 16% of this buzzing metropolis is between the ages of 25-34, the number of young people who’ve earned a bachelor’s or higher wins over Portland, Oregon.
And with major corporations like Microsoft and Amazon nearby, there’s plenty of opportunity for seed money for virtually any tech venture.
As far as environment goes, you’re only a 30-minute drive from the Cascades and world-class trails. Just go west and you’re in the Olympic National Park on the Olympic Penninsula.
The People Make the Place
Really, it’s not the city or the location but the people who make a place entrepreneur-friendly. If the entrepreneurs in a city aren’t already working together to attract more business, then a city won’t be attractive.
Where have you found success in bringing entrepreneurs together? Let me know in the comments below.