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Auburn, AL
MSA: Auburn-Opelika, AL
Best places ranking: #16 among small metro areas
Population: 133,010
Talk about your town-gown relationships. Auburn, Ala., is home to 56,000 people, including more than 25,000 Auburn University students. Next door Opelika, with its quaint, renovated downtown, is something of a bedroom community for faculty and administrators who want a buffer between them and the campus.

Small business owners say many of the recession's ills were muted here: Job losses weren't as deep, and housing remained affordable through the boom-and-bust. The university assures a continuous, nearly recession-proof stream of consumers for local goods and services. It's also a source of affordable part-time labor for businesses close to campus. The new Auburn Research Park is anchored by Northrup Grumman, which brings service and sales opportunities for local vendors.

Local entrepreneurs cite the Chamber of Commerce for being unusually active and helpful, although they caution that the city's bureaucrats are not nearly as small-business friendly.

Recreational perks of the area include several public golf courses, topped off by a Robert Trent Jones course in Opelika. Golf tourism is a big deal in the area.

Auburn's downside: A dearth of public transportation. Auburn and Opelika alike are extremely car-oriented, locals say. -Barbara Darrow

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Auburn, AL


Local smallbiz lenders

  • Redstone Federal Credit Union
  • Compass Bancshares
  • Superior Financial Group
  • Innovative Bank
  • American Heritage Holdings
See all local lenders

Auburn Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
2,321 3,516
Small business growth rate
11.9% 4.1%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
21 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
34.8% 23.5%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
483.9 385.1
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
4,137.3 3,395.2
Population growth
11.3% 4.93%
Per-capita income
$26,883 $31,933
Per-capita income growth
25.9% 23.6%
GDP (in millions)
$3,257 $4,952
GDP growth
48% 33%
Average hourly wage
$15.93 $17.50
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
1,246 850
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$670 $737
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
2.7% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
2.3% 1.7%
HPI deviation from long-term average
20% 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
"There are a lot of great little businesses on this renovated street. There are gift shops and a great consignment shop. People are proud to live here and are faithful to downtown." -Pam Powers-Smith
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Auburn?
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