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Best states to start a business

  • Best states to start a business

    When it comes to starting a business in America, not all states are created equal. About one-fifth of all startups do not survive past their first year of operation, and almost half don’t make it to five years, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

    Location makes a big difference. Some states have a low cost of living and affordable housing to make it easier to attract workers, while others have tax-friendly policies to make entrepreneurship easier. Some have a shortage of available and able workers, while others have a growing, well-educated labor pool. Overall, the goal for most startups is to find an affordable location that will provide access to skilled workers as well as plenty of resources to get a business up and running.

    To determine the best states to start a business, Stacker ranked all 50 states based on a 2019 WalletHub study that looked at 26 key indicators of startup success. Three key factors were considered in the ranking: business environment, access to resources, and business costs. To determine these, the study looked at the number of startups per capita, the five-year business survival rate, and access to financing, among other influences. Other factors were the accessibility of financing, the length of an average workweek, insurance costs, the variety of surrounding industries, and access to higher education.

    States that ranked highest tended to have low taxes, reasonable housing prices, and well-educated workers. Business-friendly Utah, for example, has high growth among its small businesses, plenty of access to financing, and a well-trained and growing workforce. The business environment in Texas is unrivaled. Real estate is reasonable, incentives abound, and small businesses tend to do well. Those at the bottom of the ranking tended to have a heavy tax burden, a high cost of living, and expensive real estate.

    States successful at nurturing new business also have a broad array of creative and innovative incentives, initiatives, and financing avenues. Georgia, where hundreds of startups are flourishing, encourages new business with research alliances, incubators, accelerators, and supportive workspaces.

    Read on to see how each state measures up.

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  • #50. Rhode Island

    - Total score: 35.29
    - Business environment rank: #50
    - Access to resources rank: #24
    - Business costs rank: #36

    Rhode Island ranks at the bottom of the list, based on its business environment score. That includes factors such as its number of engaged, committed workers; startups per capita; the five-year survival rate of businesses; and the variety of industries around the state. They do, however, have an Innovation Voucher program to help companies seeking research and development by underwriting studies at a university medical center.

  • #49. New Jersey

    - Total score: 36.42
    - Business environment rank: #44
    - Access to resources rank: #15
    - Business costs rank: #50

    The Garden State offers a bounty of resources for starting a business, including training for small business owners and a micro-business credit program, and its population is among the most educated in the country. But dragging the state down are high business costs, from taxes and the cost of living to the affordability of office space.

  • #48. New Hampshire

    - Total score: 37.94
    - Business environment rank: #46
    - Access to resources rank: #46
    - Business costs rank: #39

    A lack of available workers and limited access to resources make starting a business difficult in New Hampshire. But the NH Tech Alliance aims to make the state a technology hub through incentives and funding. Also, New Hampshire has no income tax, and its tax rate for businesses is lower than those of its neighbors.

  • #47. Hawaii

    - Total score: 38.05
    - Business environment rank: #30
    - Access to resources rank: #49
    - Business costs rank: #41

    Hawaii is a tough place to start a business, due to its low access to resources such as financing and educated workers, and its labor costs are among the highest in the country. Added to that are its expensive cost of living and housing market—according to Zillow, the median value of a home in Hawaii is $614,500.

  • #46. Connecticut

    - Total score: 39.31
    - Business environment rank: #48
    - Access to resources rank: #4
    - Business costs rank: #48

    A population that is among the most educated in the country and financial resources make Connecticut attractive to aspiring business owners. However, it scores poorly in terms of its business environment, such as its small business growth and entrepreneurship; the state is also home to some of the most expensive places to live in the country, including New Haven-Milford, Worcester, and Hartford. 

  • #45. Pennsylvania

    - Total score: 40.18
    - Business environment rank: #47
    - Access to resources rank: #22
    - Business costs rank: #37

    Hampering startups in Pennsylvania is the state’s business environment, which lacks a diversity of industries and fast-growing firms. The cost of housing is among the nation’s lowest, but its taxes can be grueling: The tax of 58.7 cents per gallon of gasoline is the highest in the nation.

  • #44. Delaware

    - Total score: 40.66
    - Business environment rank: #40
    - Access to resources rank: #14
    - Business costs rank: #44

    Delaware offers promising access to resources for starting a business, and it has no state sales tax. Instead, nearly half of its revenues come from corporate taxes levied on out-of-state companies that register in Delaware. The state  imposes a gross receipts tax of up to 1.92% on the income of businesses.

  • #43. Vermont

    - Total score: 41.35
    - Business environment rank: #45
    - Access to resources rank: #50
    - Business costs rank: #23

    Vermont ranks last in terms of access to resources, including the availability of workers. It also has the second-lowest average growth in the number of small businesses, with only West Virginia faring worse. It does spend on incentives, though, including its Stay to Stay initiative to introduce would-be Vermonters to potential employers and neighbors, and remote worker incentive grants to reimburse workers who relocate to the state.

  • #42. New York

    - Total score: 42.25
    - Business environment rank: #37
    - Access to resources rank: #6
    - Business costs rank: #49

    The state of New York nurtures businesses with initiatives such as START-UP NY, which gives new and expanding businesses an opportunity to operate tax-free for 10 years on or near university campuses with access to research, development resources, and experts. Among its bruising business costs, office space in New York is among the nation’s most expensive, its 45.6 cent tax on a gallon of gasoline is the nation’s fifth-highest, and the median home listing price of $425,000 is nearly twice the median price nationwide.

  • #41. West Virginia

    - Total score: 43.36
    - Business environment rank: #49
    - Access to resources rank: #41
    - Business costs rank: #3

    Having low labor costs and plenty of available workers should help make West Virginia a good place to start a business. However, the state has the nation’s lowest average growth among small businesses and a higher-than-average state sales tax rate at 6%. Its population is also one of the least educated nationwide.

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