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  October 7th, 2015 | Written by

Best Business Environment

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ATLANTA, Georgia
Population: 456,002
Unemployment: 6.0 percent
Sales Tax: 8.0 percent

Little wonder that when GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt recently said his company may look to relocate to a city with a “pro-business environment,” Atlanta was immediately mentioned. Home to a bevy of heavyweights (Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Airlines), Atlanta is the unquestioned business and transportation hub of the Southeast. “Hotlanta” boasts smart people—local universities include Emory and Georgia Tech—diverse culture, solid job growth (3.7 percent) and residents who enjoy a cost of living 2 percent lower than the national average.

Population: 62,845
Unemployment: 3.4 percent
Sales Tax: 6.0 percent

The largest city in a state with very low (in some cases zero) taxes, Cheyenne has become a popular destination for tech outfits ranging from a Microsoft data center to a supercomputing facility for the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Add to that a quality of life that includes clean air, no traffic—Wyoming is the least populous state with less than 600,000 residents—and lots of outdoor activities that include kids who ride horses to school!

Population: 2,239,558
Unemployment: 4.7 percent
Sales Tax: 8.25 percent

Some have predicted that dark days for the oil industry could mean dire ones for Houston, oblivious to how diversified the local economy has become: of its top 10 fastest growing companies, only two are involved with energy, and one of those is involved in reducing consumption. Local government officials set the standard for putting politics aside to do what’s best for business. While some cities struggle to get back jobs lost in 2008, Houston created two for every one lost in the meltdown.

Population: 848,788
Unemployment: 4.5 percent
Sales Tax: 7.0 percent

The diversified economy that draws strength from such stalwarts as Eli Lilly and Brightpoint as well as a wave of new tech startups benefits from low taxes—the state corporate tax dropped to 6.5 percent in July—making it about 4 percent less than the national average to do business here. There are also great logistical advantages, which is why the city is home to a FedEx Express hub and distribution centers for the likes of Amazon and Target.

Population: 613,599
Unemployment: 7.0 percent
Sales Tax: 8.1 percent

Consistently ranked as one of the top three convention cities in the U.S. means local businesses have a steady stream of new business contacts and resources. And if you want to get something built quick and to your specifications—“Giant pirate ship? We can do that”—there can’t be a better place to be. As we know, there’s always money floating about this city, which is one reason why it’s become a tech start-up engine to watch.

MIAMI, Florida
Population: 430,332
Unemployment: 5.7 percent
Sales Tax: 7.0 percent

Called the unofficial “Capital of Latin America,” Miami’s deep economic ties to that region figure only to grow as South America becomes a more significant market and when Cuba is re-opened for business. Miami International Airport and PortMiami are two of the nation’s busiest ports, owing much to South America and the Caribbean. Miami is all about international business; downtown is home to the largest concentration of international banks in the U.S.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee
Population: 644,014
Unemployment: 5.1 percent
Sales Tax: 9.25 percent

What distinguishes Nashville is a sense of collaboration, whether it’s the Entrepreneur Center incubator which helps startups in fields such as tech and healthcare—Nashville is home to more than 300 healthcare companies—or Jumpstart Foundry, which has helped 37 companies raise more than $23 million in capital. The automotive industry is fast becoming a major player in the area; Nissan North America’s corporate headquarters and largest manufacturing plant and Bridgestone’s North American headquarters are located in the region.

Population: 190,884
Unemployment: 3.6 percent
Sales Tax: 6.85 percent

Let’s make this simple: Salt Lake City is a great place for business because it’s young, inexpensive and smart. The city’s median age is a spry 30.9, more than six years younger than the national median. Many are young entrepreneurs attracted by the energy and intellect of a city where more than a third of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree and where they can conduct business at more than 3 percent lower than the national average.

Population: 852,469
Unemployment: 4.2 percent
Sales Tax: 8.75 percent

“The City by the Bay” is expensive, whether you’re starting a business or renting a one-bedroom apartment. But included in the price is access to one of the smartest populations—more than 50 percent of folks 25 or older have at least a bachelor’s degree—including scads of the best tech minds on the planet producing more patents than any area except neighboring San Jose/Sunnyvale, i.e. Silicon Valley. Home to more than 30 global financial institutions, S.F. has exceptional job growth at 4.6 percent.

SEATTLE, Washington
Population: 668,342
Unemployment: 4.1 percent
Sales Tax: 9.6 percent

Seattle is entering the conversation of great tech centers with its 12 percent tech job growth, a number that outpaces Silicon Valley, and it produces more tech patents than any city but San Francisco and San Jose/Sunnyvale. Yet it manages to meld new economy—home to Microsoft and Amazon—to old—Starbucks, Nordstrom and Expeditors International of Washington. And it’s one of the smartest cities anywhere, with nearly 60 percent of residents 25 or older having at least a bachelor’s degree.

(Note: Sales tax is based on city/county/state tax, what you would have to pay at the register.)

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