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Bismarck, ND
MSA: Bismarck, ND
Best places ranking: #2 among small metro areas
Population: 104,944
While an economic recession ravaged the country, Bismarck came out ahead: The city's unemployment rate is the lowest in the country, at 3.3%, while the nation's nears 10%.

How did Bismarck manage that? The big town is blossoming into a small city at the right time.

Bismarck's biggest growth opportunities are in the energy sector. With strong and consistent winds, Bismarck is one of the best wind-turbine areas in the country. The city also holds an estimated 3 billion barrels of untapped crude oil in a region it shares with Montana and a Canadian province.

One way Bismarck spurs growth is through its CORE Incentive Programs, which provide grants to businesses that bring development to Bismarck's downtown. The Bismarck Vision Fund uses city taxes to help finance local business expansion and startups.

The state, which passed $400 million in tax cuts in April, does its part, too. The Bank of North Dakota, the only state-owned bank in the country, offers financing for local companies, and supports the state's New Venture Capital Program. Run by the North Dakota Department of Commerce, that program makes investments of up to $300,000 each in promising local businesses.

Though the best Bismarck -- and the rest of North Dakota -- can do for sports fans is high school and college games (plus a few minor-league teams), the city is renowned for its hunting and fishing. -Hibah Yousuf

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Bismarck, ND


Local smallbiz lenders

  • Starion Bancorporation
  • Bremer Financial Corporation
  • Union Bancshares
  • Capital Credit Union
  • Blackridge Financial
See all local lenders

Bismarck Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
3,231 3,516
Small business growth rate
8% 4.1%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
30 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
35.3% 23.5%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
167.5 385.1
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
2,139.5 3,395.2
Population growth
8.4% 4.93%
Per-capita income
$35,714 $31,933
Per-capita income growth
29.9% 23.6%
GDP (in millions)
$3,954 $4,952
GDP growth
40% 33%
Average hourly wage
$17.32 $17.50
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
1,492 850
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$595 $737
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.6% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.6% 1.7%
HPI deviation from long-term average
3% 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
"In a small town, everyone wants to help you start your business because everyone wants the town to grow and thrive." -Jarred Roloff
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Bismarck?
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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

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