An ocean may separate Honolulu and the rest of the country, but free wireless Internet throughout much of the city, plus a time zone midway between New York and Asia, means that entrepreneurs here can be more connected than their mainland peers. Global-minded business owners can reach New York markets in the morning and Asian contacts in the afternoon, while the University of Hawaii supplies a well-educated workforce.
Tourism has long been a major industry, but finance, insurance, health care, and construction are also growing sectors. Tech businesses receive a boost from the city's tech-friendly tax structure (royalty income from the sale or licensing of intellectual property is exempt from both general excise and income taxes; and tax credits are awarded to firms that boost their research activity).
Hawaii Business Express assists entrepreneurs in working through red tape, and nonprofits such as HiBeam, a tech mentoring firm, also get start-ups off the ground. A little more than half of Honolulu County's private-sector businesses operate with four or fewer employees.
The cost of living is high - but so is the quality of life. Palm trees, sandy beaches, and other outdoor attractions convince many educated workers to stick around. -Peter McDougall