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Wilmington, NC
MSA: Wilmington, NC
Best places ranking: #14 among midsize metro areas
Population: 347,012
Wilmington has evolved considerably over the last three decades. In the 1980s, Wilmington became connected to I-40, a major east-west interstate. The local film industry began to grow with the construction of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the largest television and movie production facility east of California and home to the television show One Tree Hill. Wilmington is also home to pharmaceutical research organization PPD and General Electric Nuclear Energy.

Still, Wilmington remains a city with few large employers, creating an entrepreneur-led economy. In Wilmington, if you can't find a job, you create one.

Throughout the historic downtown, art galleries and businesses catering to the film and substantial tourist and "summer home" communities line the streets. City officials are working to foster technology-centric businesses through a project called Wilmington 2.0.

Southern hospitality is alive and well in Wilmington, which local business owners call a warm and welcoming community. But for many entrepreneurs, the biggest incentive for moving to the Port City is the beaches -- although some business owners admit they hold their breath during hurricane season. -Christina Crapanzano

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Wilmington, NC


Local smallbiz lenders

  • BB&T Corporation
  • Superior Financial Group
  • Surrey Bancorp
  • American Heritage Holdings
  • Innovative Bank
See all local lenders

Wilmington Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
10,242 11,214
Small business growth rate
12.8% 5.0%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
39 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
32.5% 26.9%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
423.7 478.8
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
n/a 3,562.2
Population growth
17.9% 5.73%
Per-capita income
$32,394 $35,547
Per-capita income growth
24.8% 24.0%
GDP (in millions)
$12,682 $18,559
GDP growth
34% 32%
Average hourly wage
$16.95 $18.69
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
644 286
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$843 $848
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
3.3% 1.9%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
2.3% 1.8%
HPI deviation from long-term average
45.1% 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
"Within the Wilmington arts community, we are cordial and have an unspoken agreement to not step on each other's toes with our products. " -Star Sosa
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Wilmington?
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