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Madison, WI
MSA: Madison, WI
Best places ranking: #20 among midsize metro areas
Population: 561,505
Madison's low unemployment and highly educated population help the city land consistently in the top ranks of "Best Places" lists. Convenient transportation and the generally temperate climate also dont hurt.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a Small Business Development Center, plus students and graduates for hire. An economic development initiative called Thrive is working to foster local growth in three target sectors: biotechnology, agriculture and health care. It's starting to pay off: The Madison region now has more than 250 biotech companies employing 10,000 workers, a 64% increase in local biotech jobs since 2000.

Madison is renown for offering an excellent quality of life -- it's filled with art fairs and farmers markets, and offers outdoor enthusiasts abundant lakes, rivers and hiking trails. Home to Trek Bicycle, the largest bike manufacturer in the U.S., the Madison area is filled with so many cycling trails that city planners like to refer to the region as North America's Bike Capital.

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Madison, WI


Local smallbiz lenders

  • Associated Banc-Corp
  • U.S. Bank
  • Community Bancshares Of Wiscon
  • Marshall & Ilsley Corporation
  • Oconomowoc Bancshares
See all local lenders

Madison Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
14,654 11,214
Small business growth rate
3.2% 5.0%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
38 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
48.5% 26.9%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
237.4 478.8
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
2,943.8 3,562.2
Population growth
6.7% 5.73%
Per-capita income
$42,557 $35,547
Per-capita income growth
22.9% 24.0%
GDP (in millions)
$30,160 $18,559
GDP growth
32% 32%
Average hourly wage
$20.65 $18.69
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
169 286
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$894 $848
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
2.0% 1.9%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.7% 1.8%
HPI deviation from long-term average
14.5% 0.0%

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
"My first office was in the corner of someone else's office. I think I paid $50 a month. You can still do that here: start with the proverbial shoestring. " -Ed Linville
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Madison?
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