> Small Business > Best Places to Launch

6 of 50
Washington, DC
MSA: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
Best places ranking: #6 among large metro areas
Population: 5,358,130
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

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Washington, DC


Local smallbiz lenders

  • BB&T Corporation
  • Superior Financial Group
  • Manufacturers And Traders Trust Company
  • Access National Corporation
  • Suntrust Banks
See all local lenders

Washington Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
134,245 78,289
Small business growth rate
6.3% 5.3%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
n/a N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
46.8% 32.7%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
444 537.6
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
2,874.3 3,700.0
Population growth
5.4% 6.38%
Per-capita income
$54,971 $41,342
Per-capita income growth
28.5% 25.0%
GDP (in millions)
$366,669 $164,601
GDP growth
39% 32%
Average hourly wage
$27.44 $21.03
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
73 113
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$1,411 $981
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.7% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.8% 1.9%
HPI deviation from long-term average
-5.5% 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
"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
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Washington?
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