It's one thing to sit in a tower, ivory or not, at Dun & Bradstreet's Murray Hill, New Jersey, headquarters and pore over government reports. It's another to actually be running a business in one of these top-rated communities. But interviews with entrepreneurs reveal that the economists were on target. These business owners love almost everything about the hot spots they live in.
The quality of people, for instance, came up frequently. Glenn Abel, president and founder of Springbok Technologies, a high-tech public relations firm in Richardson, a suburb of sixth-ranked Dallas, says networking helped him get his business off the ground seven years ago and has kept it airborne ever since. "In Dallas, if you network well, you get a referral, and if you present yourself well, you get the business," says Abel, 38, who has 90 employees. "It's a great city to do business in."
And in Charlotte, North Carolina, part of the fifth-ranked MSA that includes Gastonia and Rock Hill in South Carolina, Thomas Moore, an early-childhood consultant and motivational speaker, says that just being around nice people makes it worthwhile for him to be in Charlotte. "The thing that helps me do my job is having people who are comfortable with [forming business] relationships," says Moore. He adds that, as a minority businessman, it's especially important to develop good ties with bankers, printers and others who can accept him without prejudice.
Maybe the most important people in any business are its employees, and most entrepreneurs who like their location are ecstatic about the local talent pool. "I'm absolutely thrilled with the quality of the people we've been able to recruit and hire," says Walt Geer, presidents and CEO of eCompanyStore.com, an Atlanta online purveyor of uniforms. He knows what he's talking about: The 32-year-old entrepreneur has presided over eCompanyStore's expansion from 19 employees in December 1999 to 95 by late summer 2000. Geer credits the nearby universities of Georgia and Georgia Tech with providing the computer talent he needs, while Atlanta's rural hinterlands supply a lower-cost, manufacturing labor force.
It takes money to be in business, and entrepreneurs in several top-ranked cities say that recent growth in the number and size of local venture capital firms bodes well for future chances of getting funding. Geer says his company has raised nearly $17 million from venture capitalists. "And our principal investors have come out of the Southeast," he said. "That wouldn't have happened just a few years ago."