MSA: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
Best places ranking: #6 among large metro areas
For anyone providing services to the government -- anything from consulting to IT to construction -- Washington is the place to be. Sure, you could set up across the border in Virginia or Maryland, but business owners say that nothing beats hopping in a cab and arriving on Capitol Hill in 10 minutes flat. And speaking of Capitol Hill, all those highly-educated, affluent politicos, lobbyists, and lawyers keep D.C.'s consumer scene going. Retailers find that the costs of being in D.C. are outweighed by the advantages of access to a lucrative consumer base.
Rent and taxes are higher than in neighboring areas, and the District government has a reputation for red tape, though business owners agree that things have sped up in the past decade. Many businesses find they have to look outside Washington for qualified labor. Those employees face a traffic-filled commute -- and it's a common local perk for employers to foot part of the bill by paying for parking or public transit vouchers. But the prestige of being located in the nation's capital outweighs all this, entrepreneurs say, especially for anyone who wants to get a bite of the Fed pie. -Rachel Kaufman
Resources for getting started in Washington, DC
Local startup resources
Washington Business Statistics
"I do get requests regularly from people interested in franchising my restaurant concepts, but I think there's enough opportunity in DC for me to make enough money to be happy but still enjoy my life living in the city, not living on a plane" -David Von Storch