The rustic, family-owned cafe; the downtown design firm; the neighborhood landscaping group: the heart of the American entrepreneurial spirit takes root in our cities. Americans have always been known as industrious, hard-working, and unafraid to take risks, but are some cities hustling a bit harder than others? 

The team at Go.Verizon.com wanted to find out. Using an original, weighted scale and Census data, we filtered all of the information into a list of the top 15 most ambitious cities in the US. 

Read on to learn about the qualities of business owners in America’s most successful risk-taking cities, and check if your home city made the list.

Methodology

To determine the most ambitious cities in the US, the team at Go.Verizon.com looked at six different factors and then weighted each one to get a total score out of 100%. 

The team only considered cities with a population of over 100,000 people, with the exceptions of Vermont and West Virginia (the census did not provide data for their cities with 50k+ residents.)

The six factors are defined and weighted below:

  • Mean income – weighted +17% of the final score 
    • We found the mean household income for each city from the 2019 Census estimate data set S1901. A higher number positively affected the final scores.
  • Unemployment rate – weighted -10% of the final score
    • We found the unemployment rate for each city from the 2019 Census estimate data set DP03. A higher percentage negatively affected the final scores.
  • People with a bachelor’s degree or higher – weighted +10% of the final score
    • We found the percentage of people who have a bachelor’s degree or higher (all ages included) from the 2019 Census estimate data set S1501. A higher percentage positively affected the final score.
  • Number of business applications – weighted +18% of the final score
    • We found the number of business applications for 2019 from the US Census Business Formation statistic. A higher number of applications positively affected the final score.
  • Percent of population that starts a new business – weighted +25% of the final score
  • Homeownership – weighted +30% of the final score
    • We found the homeownership percentage for each city from the 2019 Census estimate data set DP04. A higher percentage positively affected the final score.
The Most Business-Ready Cities in the US map

The Top 15 Most Ambitious Cities, Broken Down

1 – Sugar Land, TX

Landing the coveted top position on our list, business owners in this suburb outside of Houston know a thing or two about doing it bigger. With a mean household income of $157,923 and an unemployment rate of only 3%, Sugar Land lives up to its statue of the strong-willed Stephen Austin, the “Father of Texas.”

2 – West Covina, CA

Second on our list, West Covina boasts an impressive number of business applications, with 128,306 filed in 2019. Consumers in West Covina are lucky—business owners offer tons of attractions, from world-class shopping malls to bite-sized baseball museums.

3 – Torrance, CA

With nearly the lowest unemployment rate on our list at 2.5%, Torrance is a beachy paradise for business owners. The coastal city is a favorite tourist destination, but locals also enjoy over 30 public parks and white sand beaches.

4 – Santa Clarita, CA

Made famous by the zombie comedy TV show Santa Clarita Diet, Santa Clarita has an economy that’s anything but dead. With 70% of the homes labeled as owner-occupied, residents of Santa Clarita save plenty of capital for business ventures (and a bit more to handle the zombie problem).

5 – Carlsbad, CA

Carlsbad doesn’t quite live up to its name, landing fifth place on our list because of its good business foundation. As nearly half the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, Carlsbad residents are educated, savvy, and hard-working.

6 – Norwalk, CA

Thanks to a 63.6% rate of homes labeled owner-occupied, sunny Norwalk grabbed the sixth spot on our list. To beat the heat, business owners and residents have plenty of options, from Norwalk’s many sports complexes to its thriving cultural and art centers.

7 – Pembroke Pines, FL

Just north of Miami, Pembroke Pines takes spot seven on our list of ambitious American cities. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in the not-quite-coastal suburb: 53% of the population of Pembroke Pines started a new business.

8 – Frisco, TX

Frisco residents can spend confidently: the mean household income is $153,704. Business owners in the city provide plenty of places for citizens to spend all that cash—Frisco has video game museums, vintage automobile collections, and outdoor concert venues.

9 – Thousand Oaks, CA

Thousand Oaks takes the ninth spot on our list with an impressively low unemployment rate of 2.9%. When not on the clock, business owners and employees can enjoy the city’s run of food festivals, cultural centers, and enormous shopping malls.

10 – Coral Springs, FL

Like Pembroke Pines, Coral Springs is a suburb just north of Fort Lauderdale. Among the top 15 cities in our list, its percentage of business owners to population is tied for first place at 53%.

11 – Fremont, CA

Nestled in the San Francisco Bay area, Fremont is home to a highly-educated population. When the residents of Fremont aren’t busy hiking in the area’s beautiful nature preserves, they must be studying: 51.02% of the population have at least a bachelor’s degree.

12 – Columbia, MO

In the heart of Missouri, Columbia city is a haven for small business owners and go-getters of all sorts. Thanks to an unemployment rate of 2.4%, the city enjoys a mean household income of $127,885.

13 – Scottsdale, AZ

Located just east of Phoenix, Scottsdale has the lowest unemployment rate among our entire top 15 list. With only 2% of the population unemployed, Scottsdale business owners and employees spend their free time golfing, relaxing at spas, and avoiding the surrounding desert.

14 – Burbank, CA

Home to Universal Studios—as well as anyone who happens to get tired of LA—Burbank is a nexus for business-savvy living. With a mean household income of $103,777, Burbank residents have a little extra spending cash to use at their local Ikea (the biggest in the US).

15 – Miami Gardens, FL

Sandwiched between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens bookends our top 15 list. As 53% of the population are business owners, tourists have plenty of local spots to buy beach gear or munch on Key lime pie.

Business-Savvy Stats from the Top 15 Most Ambitious Cities

  • Average mean household income: $80,092
  • Average unemployment percentage: 3.5%
  • Average bachelor’s degree percentage of population: 24.5%
  • Average number of business applications: 8,152
  • Average percentage of population that started a new business: 0.36%
  • Average percentage of people who own their house: 58.7%

The Most Ambitious City in Each State*

StateCity
AlabamaHuntsville
AlaskaAnchorage
ArizonaScottsdale
ArkansasLittle Rock
CaliforniaWest Covina
ColoradoArvada
ConnecticutStamford
District of ColumbiaWashington
FloridaPembroke Pines
GeorgiaAtlanta
HawaiiHonolulu
IdahoMeridian
IllinoisNaperville
IndianaFort Wayne
IowaDavenport
KansasOlathe
KentuckyLouisville
LouisianaLafayette
MarylandBaltimore
MassachusettsCambridge
MichiganSterling Heights
MinnesotaMinneapolis
MississippiJackson
MissouriColumbia
MontanaBillings
NebraskaLincoln
NevadaHenderson
New JerseyElizabeth
New MexicoAlbuquerque
New YorkBuffalo
North CarolinaCharlotte
North DakotaFargo
OhioCincinnati
OklahomaBroken Arrow
OregonPortland
PennsylvaniaAllentown
Rhode IslandProvidence
South CarolinaColumbia
South DakotaSioux Falls
TennesseeKnoxville
TexasSugar Land
UtahWest Jordan
VirginiaChesapeake
WashingtonKent
WisconsinMadison

*Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming are not included in our ranking.

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