Best Places to Launch: Billings, Missoula
Head into a Montana shop and take an item to the cash register, and you'll pay exactly what's listed on the price tag. The Big Sky state is only of only five in the U.S. that gets by without a sales tax.
Despite skipping that revenue stream, the state's coffers are overflowing: Montana is one of just two states currently in the black, running without a budget deficit. (North Dakota is the other savvy saver.)
Corporate income and property tariffs are also competitively low. The Tax Foundation ranked Montana as the sixth most business-friendly state when it comes to taxation.
That ranking was no surprise to Steve Arveschoug, executive director for the Big Sky Economic Development Authority in Billings.
"Could we do better? Sure. But we do well in that area and coupled with other factors, it makes us a really good place to run a small business," he says.
Billings' unemployment rate hovers around 5%, half the national rate. And the area has advantages other metro areas can't match -- like its famed mountains and ski slopes.
"With technologies as they are, most businesses can launch in any community that they choose," says John Brewer, president and CEO of the Billings Chamber of Commerce. "People with the skill and passion to start their own business are looking for quality of life." -Jennifer Lawinski