"There's been this slow awakening in the country among cities and MSA's (metropolitan statistical areas) in particular. Cities that really used to fight tenaciously
As the seventh largest city in the U.S. and with the biggest chunk of its population between 25 and 34, San Antonio is a perfect place to add to the rising cities list. The city is pouring money into revitalizing its downtown area to encourage young professionals to make San Antonio their permanent homes as well as developing its angel investor and venture capital networks to help address the needs of smaller startups. "San Antonio has always had a very strong small business presence," says Rene Dominguez, director economic development for the City of San Antonio. "We have some industries that really lend themselves to small-business formation and growth
"Rackspace has a desire to make San Antonio an IT, tech-driven community and it matches up with the city's goals as well," Dominguez says. >>>Rackspace Not on 'Cloud 9' Anymore From establishing Geekdom, a collaboration space that is a point of concentration for tech and entrepreneurialism in San Antonio, and a major supporter behind TechStars Cloud, a San Antonio-based accelerator launched in January 2012 that funds companies focused on cloud computing and cloud infrastructure. "San Antonio has a lot to offer tech startups," says Jason Seats, managing director of TechStars Cloud. "The community is small, but concentrated and because of initiatives like Geekdom it's very easy for newcomers to get acclimated and meet everyone. Local investors are just getting the angel-investing bug and there is healthy support to see San Antonio-based companies succeed." Startups are also launching within the biotech and medical device industry, particularly with unique assets to the city like University of Texas' Health Science Center and several biotech incubators, such as T3DC, that all lend themselves to fostering small business creations, Dominguez says. Among its myriad of city-supported programs and initiatives, the San Antonio Economic Development Corporation (SAEDC) was created in 2010 by the city council to help spur the development of innovative companies and bring high-paying jobs to the city. It has the authority to make equity investments in companies, mainly within bioscience and health care. The investment funds are provided through grants approved by City Council to the SAEDC. "We're not necessarily venture capitals because we're not looking for risky ventures," Dominguez says. "We're looking for projects that
"To be honest I came through Des Moines and was trying to fill some time before I left and headed to the Bay ... and I ended up finding that there was a unique knowledge base here and a unique support system," says Ben Milne, founder and CEO of Dwolla. "And then I found Iowa-based investors that offered support that I couldn't get outside of Iowa like the Technology Association of Iowa. They helped me along every step of the way and I just never needed to leave to find the things that the company needed next." The mobile payment network, which competes with the likes of eBay's ( EBAY) PayPal and Square, launched in December 2010. With 30 employees and growing, Dwolla's initial success is emblematic of the growing startup activity centered in Des Moines. As one of the largest insurance hubs in the nation, as well as having a large banking outfit, many smaller companies are finding success selling product solutions back into those industries. "Startups are thriving," says Jay Byers, CEO of The Greater Des Moines Partnership, a regional economic development and community organization serving central Iowa. "There's just a lot of great momentum that's happening here. We're looking at doing some other efforts within bioscience and advance manufacturing that are to work in conjunction with what we've done." Residents also appreciate the quality of life in a place like Des Moines, where surely costs for food, fuel, car insurance are lower than in major metro hubs -- not to mention Iowa is one state not running a deficit, something to be appreciated in the troubled economic times.
Perhaps that's why population in the Greater Des Moines Region, which includes eight counties is projected to grow 6.8% by 2017, according to the organization's Web site. Additionally, according to Moody's, the cost to operate a business in Des Moines is 17% below the national average, cites Byers. "The ability to live close to work, to be able to buy a big house and have a great quality of life" is appealing to professionals, Byers says. "The view toward Midwest has changed a lot in the last 10 years," says Mike Colwell, head of business development for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. From business incubator StartupCity Des Moines to the accredited angel investors, Plains Angels, there are plenty of organizations ready to help out young, promising companies. "What's interesting that's changed now were seeing VC startup funds that are focused only in the Midwest," Colwell adds. "I find it very encouraging. A lot of people are seeing the deal costs and the valuations on the coastlines that are so high.
So it needed to start attracting them. "Three things attract nerds: you need good urban, dense city life. They don't want to be lost out in suburbia. You need a really strong university system to back it up and you need the cool factor,
Officials in the greater Kansas City area, which encompasses the two cities with the same name separated by a state line, are on a mission to make the city synonymous with entrepreneurism. They seem to be well on their way. Large companies have made Kansas City their home include Sprint ( S), H&R Block ( HRB) and Hallmark. It also is home to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, with assets of $2 billion devoted to entrepreneurism and education. The foundation was established in 1966 by pharmaceutical entrepreneur Ewing Kauffman. Kauffman wanted the foundation to help young people get a quality education and recognize enterprise and individual talent as a way to spur the economy.
As a result of the Kaufman history, "We feel like we have a particularly strong claim to that and we have the assets to make that a reality," says Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Jim Heeter. "This is a city that is built on entrepreneurism." In 2010, the Chamber of Commerce reached out to the community to solicit ideas on how to better the city's community and create economic growth and jobs. After 182 ideas were submitted, the Chamber of Commerce announced in September 2011 the " Big 5 Ideas." Making Greater Kansas City the number one region in which to start and grow a business was third on the Big 5 list. To expand its entrepreneurial roots, the first phase of the Big 5 initiative was to bring awareness to the community of the overall initiative and to survey the community on what assets it already had and what was needed. This phase was completed last June and commemorated by a 10-day celebration of entrepreneurs. "We wanted to make a thorough inventory
Entrepreneurs are attracted to various cities and metropolitan areas for different reasons and to attain various goals. With its low-cost of living, family-friendly city, as well as strong local, state and federal tax incentives, among other benefits, Atlanta considers itself to rank among the cities with a strong offering for entrepreneurs looking for long-term success (as opposed to a short-term "build it and sell it" mentality in Silicon Valley, for instance. But that doesn't mean the industries it considers sweet spots are slow-moving. Between health, technology, entertainment, mobile payments and mobile technology, logistics and strong research and development facilities at its many universities, business in Hot 'Lanta certainly isn't cooling off or slowing down soon.
Invest Atlanta, the city's re-launched economic development authority was established in January 2012 to strengthen Atlanta's economy and global competitiveness by creating increased opportunity for Atlanta citizens. The research-based organization focuses on residential, business and investment growth in the city. According to its Web site, initiatives include developing partnerships between public entities and private companies to accelerate job creation, neighborhood revitalization and entrepreneurship through bond financing, revolving loan funds, housing financing, tax increment financing and tax credits. It also offers several business financing options for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including; a business improvement loan fund, the Phoenix Fund and the Opportunity Fund. "So what we really want is not only for people in Atlanta to be encouraged to start a business, but we also want people across the country
"Omaha probably is not as well-known as a lot of the other large-to-mid-sized cities out there," says David Brown, executive director of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. "We have this really interesting mix of businesses that work together that have a common vision to make this a great place for businesses." For instance, it is unusual to have a Fortune 500 CEO commiserate with a small print shop, but that's exactly what goes on in the Omaha business community, Brown says. "We realize we can be really successful creating big business as long as we pay attention now to the environment for creating small business. Our big businesses are some of our biggest supporters of the small business community," he says.
Another strong benefit to Omaha is its strong economy -- one that surely helped it withstand the recession. "Our economy continued to grow during the recession.
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