> Small Business > Best Places to Launch

48 of 50
Ames, IA
MSA: Ames, IA
Best places ranking: #18 among small metro areas
Population: 86,754
Home to Iowa State University, Ames also hosts four research facilities for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which attracts research and development initiatives, agriculture-related biotechnology and renewable energy businesses. Economic incentive packages, particularly for startup businesses, are offered by the Ames Economic Commission.

Unemployment is low, but businesses requiring large numbers of workers will quickly run into the limits of the local labor pool. Business owners say the city approval process for zoning changes, permits, and related issues can be slow.

Located in the heart of the Midwest, Ames has a significantly lower cost of living than coastal metropolitan areas. Its housing market is relatively stable, and residents can take advantage of numerous golf courses, woodland parks, and biking trails. Winter brings snow for sledding and cross-country skiing. Commercial air travel is 45 minutes away at the Des Moines International Airport. Ames' municipal airport is designed primarily for private use and charters. -Dinah Eng

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Ames, IA


Local smallbiz lenders

  • First American Bank
  • U.S. Bank
  • Liberty Banchares Iowa
  • Northwest Financial Corp.
  • Arneson Bancshares
See all local lenders

Ames Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
1,911 3,516
Small business growth rate
2.5% 4.1%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
44 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
60.4% 23.5%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
322.2 385.1
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
2,808.6 3,395.2
Population growth
6.5% 4.93%
Per-capita income
$33,942 $31,933
Per-capita income growth
26.5% 23.6%
GDP (in millions)
$3,399 $4,952
GDP growth
32% 33%
Average hourly wage
$19.44 $17.50
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
953 850
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$753 $737
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.6% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.7% 1.7%
HPI deviation from long-term average
-1.6% 0.1%

All statistics are for the full Metropolitan Statistical Area. For a complete list of data sources, see "How we picked the Best Places."

From the November 2009 issue
"We started in a small corner of our basement and now have a 7,500 square foot building in the Ames Community Development Park." -Bill Bergan
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Ames?
Find your launch spot
Do you prefer a place that is: Small Medium Large
The factors that matter most to me are:
 Affordable wages  Few foreclosures
 Educated workers  Low housing costs
 Low crime  High local incomes
 A growing economy  Population growth
 Growing small business population

ireportTell us why: Low taxes? Talented workers? An active small business community? Send us your photos and videos, and you could be featured in our upcoming coverage of reader-picked Best Places to Launch. More
This year we partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to find the 50 most business-friendly communities in America.

With help from Robert Fairlie, an economist and leading scholar of entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we developed a methodology and sifted through such data on factors such as per capita income, hourly wages, workforce quality, crime rates, taxes and foreclosures. More

Comments? E-mail the editors
Data partners

This package was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Foreclosure data provided by RealtyTrac.

Housing price-to-income data provided by Moody's