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Tuscaloosa, AL
MSA: Tuscaloosa, AL
Best places ranking: #11 among small metro areas
Population: 206,765
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

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Tuscaloosa, AL


Local smallbiz lenders

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

Tuscaloosa Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
4,272 3,516
Small business growth rate
4.9% 4.1%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
21 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
32.3% 23.5%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
564 385.1
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
4,928.9 3,395.2
Population growth
6.3% 4.93%
Per-capita income
$32,634 $31,933
Per-capita income growth
28.9% 23.6%
GDP (in millions)
$7,505 $4,952
GDP growth
50% 33%
Average hourly wage
$16.94 $17.50
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
1,318 850
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$731 $737
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
2.0% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.9% 1.7%
HPI deviation from long-term average
4% 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
"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
Best Places Winners
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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

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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