Searching to find the best cities to start a business? We’ve got it covered.

The mass exodus from cities during COVID included businesses and workers alike, which led to smaller cities becoming hubs for startups and entrepreneurs looking for smarter places to launch. 

Here’s a small list of the best cities in the United States to start a business in 2021-21 to ride out the pandemic and into the post-pandemic area. We’ve taken into account the cost of living and doing business, taxes, transportation, real estate costs, the local talent pool, key industries, and the overall culture of the city.

Tap one of the links, or continue scrolling below to find out which destinations are the best places to start a business.


MIAMI | LOS ANGELES | AUSTIN | ORLANDO | PORTLAND


Miami, Florida

Miami has been working at positioning itself as more than just a hotspot for the tourism industry. Once remote working took over, many “WFHers” began flocking south toward warmer weather and ended up in Miami.

Top companies for a long time in Miami include Publix, Carnival Cruise Line, and American Airlines. However, finance is an emerging scene for the city, as indicated by arrivals Goldman Sachs and Blackstone Group that have relocated to the metropolis. 

This South Florida city has a growing network of accelerators, incubators, and startup boot camps. Target industries in Miami include aviation, technology, and creative design (which is no surprise since Miami has an established reputation within the art world for hosting its own fashion weeks, exhibitions, and Art Basal).

New businesses are able to benefit from easy visibility in Miami and leverage opportunities much more easily than in larger metropolises like New York City. Better yet, businesses get a break financially thanks to friendly tax laws in the state of Florida that only subject corporations to a 5.5 percent tax rate.

While it was once a challenge to convince prime candidates to relocate to Miami, the COVID-19 pandemic’s increase in remote working now means startups in Miami can source talent from outside of the city.

Local employees can take advantage of the city’s immense cultural institutions, solid public transportation infrastructure, world-class culinary scene, broad nightlife options, and of course its gorgeous beaches — but on half of the salary compared to a metropolis like NYC.

The city is full of co-working and shared office spaces that help eliminate the expense of a permanent office building. Miami has a lower cost of living compared to other cities of its size, though it’s getting more expensive each year— particularly for real estate.

Los Angeles, California

It’s all about Silicon Beach, in California— a stretch of West L.A. that runs from Santa Monica up to Playa Vista.

Although Los Angeles is arguably not affordable to many people, the cost of living still comes in at 20 percent lower than Silicon Valley’s San Francisco Bay Area. So it’s no surprise that several new and existing businesses are gravitating to reside within the world’s sixth-largest startup ecosystem.

The migration to Silicon Beach started back as early as 2011 when Google opened the doors to its Venice Beach campus. Other big names with operations in Silicon Beach now include Facebook, Snapchat, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Headspace.

Over 500 tech companies, many of them startups, call this stretch of west L.A. home — creating jobs, contributing to a thriving economy, and attracting talent. It’s worth noting though that heavy traffic and lengthy commutes are common in the area as a result.

Incentives for starting up a business in this trendy space range from legislative incentives like hefty R&D tax breaks to discretionary incentives based on how much the business can benefit the city and its communities. Plus, there’s always clout that comes with being an LA-based company. 

The cost of living in Los Angeles is 43 percent higher than the national average, mainly due to the extraordinarily high housing and real estate costs.

Companies should expect to support local employees with a higher wage or salary in order to maintain an adequate quality of life. For example, the minimum wage in Los Angeles is $15 per hour— which is over double the federal minimum wage. 

Looking to expand an existing business? Check out our blog on the Top 10 Cities For Business Relocations.

Austin, Texas

Austin has been on a steady rise as one of America’s top cities to start a business over the past decade. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, 45 companies relocated to Austin— including Samsung, Apple, and Tesla.

Having a startup in Austin means you have access to various local business incentives, a supportive professional community, relatively affordable commercial real estate, and a zero-percent corporate tax rate. 

In 2020, Austin ranked as one of the top 20 cities in the world for its global startup ecosystem. According to a report by Inc.com, Austin is also a top-five city for high-growth company density, job creation, population growth, and early-stage funding.

Key industries in Austin include clean technology, manufacturing, creative and digital media technology, and life sciences. 

Local companies have an ace-up-their-sleeve when it comes to recruiting candidates: the city itself. Austin is an attractive and popular place to live and relocate, offering a variety of culture and amenities, plenty of space, and a hip, trendy vibe.

The cost of living is rising in tandem with the city’s popularity, but it’s still notably more affordable than major metropolitan areas. Austin remains lower than the national average in almost every category other than housing, where it is 2% more expensive. Also worth noting is the city’s lack of personal income tax.

Orlando, Florida

This Central Floridian city has been making waves as a great place for new businesses. Thanks to its density and size, Orlando offers startups the opportunity to be bigger fish in a smaller pond than in oversaturated tech cities like Silicon Valley or NYC.

Businesses that startup in Orlando also have access to seed money, accelerator programs, and a host of business incentives from $20,000 fee waivers to various programs. 

The cost of living in Orlando is roughly 50 percent lower than in NYC or San Francisco, and employees benefit from a rising minimum wage, no personal income tax (or for LLCs).

Quality of life doesn’t hurt in Orlando as well. There is a plethora of world-class entertainment in the area (Disney and Universal Studios are just the beginning), top-notch dining, top-rated beaches in short driving distance, and over 200 days of sunshine. 

Orlando is also home to many diverse cultural communities, an international airport, and some of the most progressive plans and investments in quality of life for transportation, infrastructure, and competitive projects.

Great cities breed great business — and Orlando is definitely a startup city worth becoming a part of from the beginning.

Portland, Oregon

View of bridge over river in the city of Portland

Prior to the pandemic, Portland was making the rounds on lists of best cities to start a business — and it’s still a good bet for new businesses.

Part of the reason is the low cost of living, low taxes, accessible public transportation, and smart infrastructure. As a result of those features, the city is extremely attractive to young millennial and Gen Z workers.

Portland’s sustainable and progressive mindset and practices have proved to be a magnet for businesses that that share the same priorities. 

The lack of sales tax in the state of Washington makes Portland a mecca for retail, and it’s not surprising that manufacturing and apparel are two of the city’s biggest industries (healthcare being the third, with Nike being the most famous).

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However, funded Portland startups are all over the map with companies focused on food, tech, tourism, and more. Oregon corporations are also only taxed on the amount of income received for goods and services sold within the state. 

While Portland still has a ways to go to overtake Seattle as the Pacific Northwest’s startup city center, it’s well on its way.

The cost of living in Portland is still 13 percent less than just north in Seattle, though almost all categories are higher than the national average — prompting several businesses to get in on this rising startup city.

Move to the Best Places to Start a Business

Boxes and unpacked furniture in an office

No matter what stage of startup you’re in, we’re here to help your business grow. However, deciding where to launch a business is only the first step. Moving in talent, bringing in office furniture, and other equipment is a large undertaking.

For business-related moving and storage, PODS has it covered. Get a free online quote to receive a custom quote for your needs, here.

Get Your Free Quote Today!

RELATED ARTICLE: Top Cities for Relocation 2020-21: A Look at Pandemic Moving Trends

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