Most Popular Micropolitan Areas (Small Cities) for Startups According to the US Census

ShivarWeb
By Nate Shivar
September 23, 2019

ShivarWeb has a lot of DIYers and freelancers not living in the biggest, richest cities of the world. In fact, I originally started this business in Athens, Georgia, USA – not in larger Atlanta. As a fun post, I thought I’d dig into some data for my non-metro area readers.

The benefits of big metro areas for new businesses are well-known, but so are the costs in money, time, and health. In the era of remote work, you can get a lot of the benefits of the city anywhere with an Internet connection, except one – being physically aroundother new business-owners.

With that in mind, I decided to look at the Census Bureau’s data on cities to see if there were any places in America that hit a sweet spot between being small & self-contained and being a popular place to start a new business.

Micropolitan areas are populated areas that have too much population to qualify as a rural area, and too few commuting ties to a larger city to qualify as part of a larger metropolitan area. They are between 10,000 to 50,000 people and quite a distance from a large city.

In other words – micropolitan areas are true small cities.

There are 536 micropolitan areas in America with a core city of between 10,000 and 50,000 people plus the population of the surrounding area.

Here are the Top 20 Most Popular Micropolitan Areas for New Small Businesses in America based on US Census data from 2015-2016 (most recently available). You can view the full list of 536 areas here.

Source: ShivarWeb

20. Breckenridge, CO Micro Area

Breckenridge CO
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New Businesses: 239

Breckenridge, Colorado is a hub for every outdoor sport that you can imagine. The Rocky Mountain scenery is incredible. It has world-class skiing, hiking, fishing, and kayaking. The area has a population of 31,007. 

According to Crunchbase, you’ll find startups like –

  • Vaway, a vacation rental marketplace
  • Tomorrow Holding, a fiber reactor technology firm
  • Area 101, a professional food service firm

19. Tupelo, MS Micro Area

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New Businesses: 247

Tupelo, Mississippi is the hub of North Mississippi with an area population of 140,552. It’s the smallest city in America with two banks with more than $10 billion in assets.

Unlike many small towns, it has a thriving downtown with a strong balance of businesses and an independent spirit. You’ll also find growing startups such as –

  • Central Services Association, an IT firm focusing on utility management
  • Malco Theaters, a family-owned cinema firm

18. Summit Park, UT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 247

Summit Park has an area population of 41,933 and is known as the “richest small town in America.” Nestled in the Uinta mountain range, many of the homes are vacation homes, but it is also a hub for consultants and wealthy remote workers.

17. Sevierville, TN Micro Area

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New Businesses: 247

The Sevierville, Tennessee area has a population of 97,892 and is a mountain vacation hub on the East Coast. It’s surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains with world-class hiking, fishing, and kayaking.

In addition to tourism-based startups, Sevierville is home to stratups such as –

  • Carp Data Service, a data analysis firm
  • Comfort Flow, an orthopedic dog bed firm

16. Jackson, WY-ID Micro Area

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New Businesses: 251

The Jackson, Wyoming area has a population of 34,721 and has played an outsized role in America’s history. It’s surrounded by two of America’s most iconic National Parks with the Rocky Mountains forming a bowl around the city.

The small city is a mini-hub for a range of startups like –

  • DMOS Collective, a provider of collapsible stealth and alpha shovels
  • Odyssey Sensors, an ag-tech company
  • Video Science, a video chat service for the healthcare industry

15. Brainerd, MN Micro Area

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New Businesses: 251

The Brainerd, Minnesota area has a population of 94,408 and a deep history with railroads, logging, mining – and now, tourism. It has a wealth of lakes and deep forests in addition to a classic downtown.

Brainerd is home to startups such as –

  • Elite Motorcycle Parts, a maker of premium motorcycle parts
  • MaxBotix, a designer & manufacturer of ultrasonic sensors

14. Branson, MO Micro Area

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New Businesses: 263

The Branson, Missouri area has a population of 87,601. It is the home of Mark Twain, and the setting of many of his stories.

The startup community is focused on tourism and food.

13. Augusta-Waterville, ME Micro Area

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New Businesses: 269

The Augusta, Maine area has a population of 122,083, and is also the capital of Maine. The city lies on the Kennebec River, and is also host to the University of Maine.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Kenway, a manufacturer of custom composite products for mining
  • Southport Boats, a maker of high performance boats

12. Truckee-Grass Valley, CA Micro Area

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New Businesses: 274

The Truckee, California area has a population of 99,696, and is a popular home for small companies moving out of the Bay area into the beautiful Sierra Mountains.

The town lies on both I-80 and the first (and main) transcontinental railroad. The startup community includes companies like –

  • bigtruck Brand, a specialist in the design, marketing, and manufacturing of hats
  • Clear Capital, a valuation company for the mortgage industry
  • 1bios, a health tracking & engagement platform for healthcare companies

11. Twin Falls, ID Micro Area

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New Businesses: 279

Twin Falls, Idaho has an area population of 110,096. The main city has grown so fast, that the Census Bureau reclassified the area as a metropolitan area in 2019.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Plant Therapy, a direct-to-consumer supplier of essential oils
  • BestNotes, a HIPAA compliant CRM and EHR system
  • KickBack Rewards, a data entry & CRM company

10. Concord, NH Micro Area

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New Businesses: 301

The Concord, New Hampshire area has a population of 151,232, and has strong links to the Boston startup scene. It’s the capital of New Hampshire and lies on the Merrimack River.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Bradford Networks, a maker of automated security products for enterprise & governments
  • Nanocomp, a commercial producer of carbon nanotube-based lightweight sheets, tapes, and wires
  • CoolSim, an advanced CFD-based tool available for optimizing energy consumption in data centers

9. Hilo, HI Micro Area

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New Businesses: 318

The Hilo area has a population of 200,383, and is the main city of the “big island” of Hawaii. The city lies at the base of Mauna Lea and Mauna Loa – two of the most famous volcanoes in the world.

The city has large scientific, agricultural, and tourist industries – all of which influence the startup community. Companies in Hilo include –

  • Mauna Loa Macadamias, the world’s largest processor of macadamia seeds
  • DroneFlow, a fully automated aerial inspection technology
  • Shaka Tea – a line of refreshing herbal iced teas

8. Edwards, CO Micro Area

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New Businesses: 322

The Edwards, Colorado area has a population of 54,993, and lies in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Central Colorado.

The area is a favorite of skiers and outdoor fans. The startup community is spread out & remote, but includes companies like –

  • HomeTrax, online tools for homeowners, service providers, and organizations
  • TripHero, a solution to the multi-layered problem of traveling with luggage and equipment

7. Glenwood Springs, CO Micro Area

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New Businesses: 342

The Glenwood Springs area has a population of 77,732, and is the “sister” micropolitan area to Edwards, Colorado. The city is nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley on the Colorado River. It has been named “the Most Vibrant Small Town for Arts” and the “5th Best Small Town” in America by different publications.

The startup community is very small and focused on arts & agriculture, but also includes some tech startups like Helpp, a connecting service for providers & consumers.

6. Kalispell, MT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 353

The Kalispell area has a population of 102,106, and lies nestled near both Glacier National Park (the “Crown of the Continent”) and the Canadian border.

The startup community includes companies like –

  • Roomie, a provider of better furniture options for college students
  • Counter Assault, a manufacturer of bear spray and personal protection spray
  • Expesicor, a drug discovery firm for neurological disorders

5. Torrington, CT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 382

The Torrington area has a population of 181,111, and lies within day trip distance of both New York City and Boston.

The business community includes companies like –

  • Trlby Innovative, a maker of custom impulse heat sealing equipment
  • Altek Electronics, an electronic manufacturing company providing chassis and control panels

4. Traverse City, MI Micro Area

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New Businesses: 385

The Traverse City area has a population of 149,914, and lies at the far north of Michigan’s “mitten” along Lake Michigan. The city is a top agricultural producer of cherries and other fruits. It’s regularly named as one of the best small town travel destinations and one of the best small towns to retire to.

The business community includes companies such as –

  • ATLAS Space Operations, a satellite communications service
  • DriveShare, an online marketplace for classic cars

3. Key West, FL Micro Area

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New Businesses: 387

The Key West area has a population of 75,027, and is the sourthernmost city in the continental United States. It is a hub for tourism, festivals, and tropical living.

The business community centers around consultants, travel, and tourism companies.

2. Claremont-Lebanon, NH-VT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 437

The Lebanon area has a population of 217,215, and lies in the Connecticut River Valley. It is home to the Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth Medical Center. It also has strong transport links to the Boston area, which influences its business community.

The Lebanon area is home to businesses such as –

  • Appcast, a job advertising platform
  • Adima, an antibody discovery and optimization platform
  • Avitide, a purification solutions firm for biopharmaceutical companies

1. Bozeman, MT Micro Area

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New Businesses: 536

The Bozeman area has a population of 111,876, and lies at the gateway to Yellowstone National Park along with the largest ski resorts & outdoor opportunities in the United States. The town regularly appears as the “Best Small Town in America” lists. With all the entrepreneurs & economic growth moving to Bozeman – I’m not surprised to see it top this list as well.

Bozeman is home to businesses such as –

  • Schedulicity, an online appointment scheduling platform for discovering and booking local services
  • Quiq, a customer service messaging platform
  • Absaroka Energy Company, a provider of clean renewable energy

Takeaways

I can’t criticize big cities. After all, I ended up moving to Atlanta after starting in Athens, GA. Big cities are great.

But…big cities aren’t the best option for some businesses. And the certainly aren’t the best option for many individuals. I loved this Planet Money episode explaining why.

Remote work and online tools make anywhere a good place to work. But you still need to be able to make “anywhere” work for you – and that includes being around other businesses & startups.

There are plenty of startups & small businesses in nearly every city. And as you can see from the list above, there are some small cities that have more than plenty.

Find your place, find your people, and build your business.

You can view the full list of 536 areas here.