We ranked 296 Census-designated metro areas by business friendliness (Launching Score, % New Businesses) and lifestyle offerings (Living Score). Then, through reporting, we picked the town within each of the top 100 metro areas that best blends business and pleasure.
We enlisted OnBoard, a data-collection agency in New York City, to gather relevant federal, state, and city statistics. Bert Sperling, a consultant based in Portland, Ore., and the author of Cities Ranked and Rated
, provided additional data and helped crunch the numbers. We started by examining 296 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). An MSA, or metro hub, is a Census-designated region, consisting of a cluster of neighboring cities and towns that share many of the same economic and recreational resources. (See census.gov
for more information.) Each MSA hub earned points based on business factors such as tax rates, job growth, and the number of airline flight connections within a 60-mile radius.
Next we assessed lifestyle factors in each hub (for instance, the number of parks and arts venues within a 15-mile radius, health infrastructure, and average temperatures). We then combined the business and lifestyle scores to arrive at a preliminary list of hubs, filtered out hubs with that appeared to have a low percentages of startups (based on the number of new businesses with fewer than 20 employees as a percentage of total businesses with fewer than 20 employees, in 2004, in 2004, the latest statistics available), and ranked the hubs accordingly. Last, we picked towns within each hub that demonstrated the strongest population growth and lowest crime rates; we also favored those with housing costs no greater than 120% or less than 80% of the median area cost.
Our reporters then interviewed entrepreneurs, local officials, and business experts to identify towns with the strongest small-business programs (such as tax incentives or favorable zoning regimes) and the most appealing leisure resources (such as a lively downtown, great fishing, or beautiful parks).
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