MSA: Pittsburgh, PA
Best places ranking: #2 among large metro areas
Greater Pittsburgh is home to a workforce with hard-won manufacturing skills from the city's steelmaking past. Need machinists? They're here -- and that's a draw for small businesses.
The region combines that talent pool with a mix of highly educated students from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon University and Duquesne University. Those institutions helped make Pittsburgh a leader in robotics, healthcare, and artificial intelligence. Locals cite the city's culture as one of its biggest selling points: There are tight-knit neighborhoods, many built around eastern European communities that prize a strong work ethic.
Most of the city's small businesses are family-owned concerns that have morphed to serve new markets. Resources like the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence help both startups and generations-old companies get the skills they need. Pittsburgh's location on major North-South and East-West interstates connects companies with distant markets and suppliers.
State taxes aren't low, and the recession-fueled tax shortfall hurts: The state may have to take over Pittsburgh's pension system. But small businesses say the local workforce is resilient, and with valuable, transferrable skills.
Native Pittsburghers often stick around to raise their own families. It can be hard to retain outsiders, through -- those drawn from elsewhere to Pittsburgh's world-class educational institutions typically collect their degrees and leave. -Barbara Darrow
Resources for getting started in Pittsburgh, PA
Local startup resources
Pittsburgh Business Statistics
"The seven-county area here has a lot going for it, and Pittsburgh is the star of western Pennsylvania. Everyone talks about Pittsburgh's universities, and of course they turn out well-educated students ready to go. " -Georgia Berner