MSA: Missoula, MT
Best places ranking: #10 among small metro areas
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Missoula is quintessential Big Sky country, with the requisite ranchers, hunters and cowboy hats. But the industries that really support the city are 21st century: education, healthcare, government and small business. Missoula is the state's second largest and one of its most sophisticated cities, in part because it's home to the University of Montana -- a magnet for the West's best students, teachers and researchers. It has many of the cultural amenities of a larger city, unparalleled natural beauty, and countless opportunities for outdoor recreation, like biking, fishing, hiking and skiing. Office space is reasonably priced and there's plenty of it.
Because it's also a regional medical center, with two nonprofit hospitals, there are a growing number of medical device and biotech startups here. The university's School of Forestry has helped foster a growing green-tech sector as well.
There are few local tax breaks for businesses outside of eco-development projects, and housing prices are a bit high for the region -- the median home price is around $260,000. But aspiring entrepreneurs can get running start with help from the Montana Community Development Corporation. The nonprofit lends $3 million a year to startups and small businesses, largely those that don't qualify for standard bank loans. In the last three years, the amount of money loaned out by MTCDC has tripled. -Eilene Zimmerman
Resources for getting started in Missoula, MT
Local startup resources
Missoula Business Statistics
"Missoula is a very livable city, and there is a growing group of networking entrepreneurs here." -Don Kiely