Five years ago, a perfect economic storm carved a path of destruction through nearly every city in the United States. It pummeled the housing market, choked access to credit and left millions of Americans unemployed.
Entrepreneurs, for their part, faced their share of hardships, from layoffs and called loans to forced pivots and bankruptcies. At its height, the recession claimed nearly 170,000 businesses, the majority of them small, between 2008 and 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Yet, while the storm raged, many managed to keep their heads above water, and still others decided to launch businesses themselves. The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity showed record-high rates of new businesses in 2009 and 2010. The recession, many entrepreneurs say, helped garner broader support for high-growth startups, sparked a wave of innovation and gave credence to the decision to carve one’s own path. It was, for many, not the Great Recession but the Great Reinvention.
Two months ago, Entrepreneur.com set out on a virtual tour of cities, large and small, from the mountains of the Pacific Northwest to the bayous of the Gulf Coast. Every community, we found, has its own strengths, challenges and gusto. That said, we heard common themes at nearly every stop along the way: The startup community here is stronger than ever, though access to funding could be better. We may not have the same cachet as Silicon Valley, but we’re playing to our own strengths. The economy might not be what it was five years ago, but technology has made doing business cheaper, faster and easier than ever.
Here are the highlights from seven cities profiled in our Reinvention 2013 project.