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April 21, 2021

Maine scores high on US list of best small cities for launching a business

File photo Based largely on its access to resources, the city of Bangor was No. 2 among the best small cities in the Northeast for starting a business, according to financial website WalletHub.

Maine addresses appear high on a just-released national list ranking the best small cities in which to launch a business.

Bangor was No. 2 among the best cities in the northeastern U.S. and Portland placed No. 3, both narrowly edged out by Ithaca, N.Y., in the analysis by financial website WalletHub. Bangor ranked No. 96 among the 1,337 cities that were evaluated nationwide. Portland was No. 166 among them.

The WalletHub ranking also looked at two other Maine cities. South Portland ranked No. 8 in the Northeast and No. 378 in the U.S., while Lewiston placed No. 29 regionally and No. 712 nationally.

The study results, published Tuesday, compared the business-friendliness of cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000, using 20 metrics in three categories: business environment, business costs and access to business resources.

Based on census data and other vetted sources, WalletHub scored the communities on individual criteria ranging from the number of startups per capita to the average square-foot cost of office space to the average small-business loan amount in each city.

Bangor’s lofty listing was buoyed by the city’s rank for access to business resources, No. 11 among all 1,337 contenders. That category counted for 25% of each city’s evaluation, and included seven criteria such as workforce educational attainment and the average loan amount.

Bangor ranked No. 575 nationally for its business environment and No. 536 for business costs.

Portland, in contrast, ranked No. 72 for resource access, No. 192 for business environment and No. 794 when it came to costs.

In the overall ranking, upper echelons were dominated by Midwestern and Western cities, which scored especially high in the business environment category. That group of nine criteria included the startups per capita as well as several measurements related to quality of life.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many cities in the Northeast and in California — especially those near major metropolitan areas — fared poorly in the cost category. Besides the average office rent, it comprised measurements of labor expense, the cost of living and corporate taxes.

The best small city in the U.S. for starting a business, according to WalletHub, was St. George, Utah. The worst, ranking No. 1,337, was Westfield, N.J.

The rankings come as the Maine Small Business Development Centers on Wednesday released their annual report, showing that the state's small company owners and entrepreneurs sought business-building help last year at nearly double the pace of 2019.

In addition to its rankings, WalletHub published results from a national survey of small business owners, asking about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020. According to WalletHub, 61 million small business owners in the U.S. said the year made them regret starting their companies. Two-thirds of all those polled said 2020 was their most difficult year ever in business.

More highlights of the WalletHub survey can be found here. To access the business-friendliness ranking, click here.

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