The Grower: Atlanta
There's a simple formula that defines the Atlanta small-business scene: Big growth equals big opportunities. Service and retail businesses are in constant demand all across the metro area to serve the city's expanding boundaries, and a full portfolio of city-backed loans, grants and tax credits, combined with a low cost of living, makes Atlanta prime real estate for entrepreneurs with franchise dreams. But this city on steroids is interested in attracting startups beyond the usual chain restaurants and dry cleaners. It's pushing hard to develop a biotech cluster in what it's calling the Innovation Crescent, an urban arc from Atlanta to Athens dedicated to life-sciences companies. "Biotech is looking more and more at coming to Atlanta because of what we offer and our quality of life," says Lonnie Saboor, manager of small business and industrial finance for the Atlanta Development Authority. "In five to seven years, we're looking to biotech as a mainstay of job creation and development."
Rainey Compression Essentials
It was a visit to the dermatologist that convinced Russell Rainey he needed a new direction in his career path. The former electronics R&D man had been sewing intimate apparel for several years, but foreign competition was forcing his margins lower and lower. Then a complaint by his dermatologist about the lack of quality post-surgical garments sparked Rainey's imagination. After several years of research, he developed a line of nylon compression garments designed to promote healing after face-lifts, tummy tucks and other cosmetic procedures. The idea took off, and Rainey moved his industrial sewing machine from his home to a facility in central Atlanta, where he now employs 12 people. But his rapid growth didn't happen in a vacuum: SBA development loans and a program called E-200, a mentoring and networking plan designed to help inner-city CEOs take their businesses to the next level, gave Rainey the technical expertise to raise his business from a quarter million to a half million and now over $1 million in sales. Rainey, who hopes to fill the unused portion of the 50,000-square-foot facility that he has dubbed the "Entrepreneurium" with other local small businesses, thinks much of his success belongs to Atlanta. "This is a young, vibrant city. People are more accepting of new ideas than in other places and they want to actually see you succeed," Rainey says. "I talk to people I know in business, and they all say the same thing: If you can't make it in Atlanta, it's going to be hard to make it anywhere."
Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.