MSA: Tuscaloosa, AL
Best places ranking: #11 among small metro areas
Resting along the banks of West Central Alabama's Black Warrior River, Tuscaloosa may be best known for University of Alabama gridiron action. But local entrepreneurs say it's a great place to live and work year-round. With a metro area of just over 200,000 residents, there are enough people to support businesses but not so many that it's hard to reach local leadership.
Tuscaloosa is among the most affordable places to live and do business in the Southeast. Unemployment in the area is generally lower than in the rest of the state, helped by growth in government, education and healthcare jobs. Manufacturing businesses -- including automotive, chemicals and electronics -- also contribute to the local economy. Tuscaloosa has two industrial parks, and foreign-owned companies like Mercedes employ many of the area's workers.
The local government is supportive of business but is not big on incentives. The city offers some tax abatements for companies that will invest in new property, plants and equipment, but it won't abate taxes earmarked for the city and county school systems.
There's some overdevelopment in Tuscaloosa's apartment and condo market, but the housing market hasn't tanked to the degree seen in other areas. As one local business leader put it: "We don't tend to boom in this market, but we have steady growth, and that's served us well."
An abundance of lakes, rivers, golf courses and public parks ensure that there's plenty of outdoors activity happening beyond Bryant-Denny Stadium. -Maya Payne Smart
Resources for getting started in Tuscaloosa, AL
Local startup resources
Tuscaloosa Business Statistics
"I always say that Tuscaloosa is a unique big little town. There are a lot of deep-rooted families here that have known each other and been friends with each other for well over a century." -Liz Obradovich