The Best Places to Launch Your Business in North Carolina

Best Places to Launch Your Business in North Carolina

Ready to start your business in North Carolina? Discover the top destinations that made the cut in analysis of 115 communities in the state. Prepare to be amazed by the unexpected cities that offer great opportunities for entrepreneurs. Kickstart your entrepreneurial journey and explore the potential of these remarkable North Carolina communities for business success.

Looking to start a business in North Carolina? Discover the top destinations that NerdWallet has analyzed among 115 communities in the state. Prepare to be amazed by the unexpected cities that made the cut and learn where you can kickstart your entrepreneurial journey. Explore the potential of these remarkable North Carolina communities for your business success.

Acclaimed North Carolina entrepreneur Neal Hunter recently spoke to Tar Heel business school students and urged these future leaders: Empower your people, give them a vision, and theyll take you anywhere you want to go.

They might not want to go too far, though. Theres rising optimism about North Carolina as a place to do business. A Wells Fargo report says the states economy has clearly shifted into high gear.

Amid the upbeat outlook, a NerdWallet analysis has determined the best places in the state to start a business.

Technology is crucial

Ted Zoller, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of North Carolinas Kenan-Flagler Business School, points to Research Triangle Park. Created in 1959, its one of the countrys top high-tech research-and-development centers.

The park, Zoller tells NerdWallet, is giving rise to a robust and deep entrepreneurial stack.

Were on a roll. We definitely are, Zoller tells NerdWallet. Theres an emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem thats just supercharging.

Tourism and seniors give the state a boost

A lot of retirement communities are springing up all around the place, says Moses Acquaah, director of the MBA program at the Bryan School of Business and Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

And North Carolinas mountains and beach communities, he tells NerdWallet, are a potent draw for tourists.

Small doesnt necessarily mean small time

Half of the top 10 places on the NerdWallet list are towns and cities with fewer than 10,000 residents. Except for the city of Hickory, all of them have fewer than 20,000. Catawba County stands out in the survey, with two cities — Hickory and Conover — in the top 10.

By the way, Wilmington ranked second in a previous NerdWallet study of the best places to start a business in the country. But weve ranked it 51st in this North Carolina survey. Thats because the national survey focused specifically on 183 metropolitan areas with a large population.

How NerdWallet created these rankings

The survey was based on U.S. Census data covering 121,462 businesses in 115 communities in North Carolina and ranked the communities based on two key metrics.

One was business climate, which made up 65% of the overall score and included the average annual revenue of businesses, the percentage of companies with paid employees and the number of companies per 100 people.

The other metric takes into account the health of the local economy, which made up 35% of the total score. It covered such factors as median annual income, median annual housing costs and the unemployment rate.

1. Pineville

The town of Pineville, with just over 7,700 residents, bills itself as the biggest small town in the region. The community has its own telecommunications and electric company, as well as recreational facilities and venues, led by Jack Hughes Park. Pineville tops the NerdWallet list with roughly 1,200 businesses recording an impressive average revenue per business of $2.2 million.

2. Morrisville

Morrisville is in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, a vibrant economic hub where Research Triangle Park, home to many high-tech companies, is located. Thats no doubt a factor in the towns high ranking in the NerdWallet survey, which shows Morrisville posting an average per-business revenue of $4.6 million, the highest among the communities surveyed. The town has been a very attractive business address for companies that are growing, Joan Siefert Rose, president of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, tells NerdWallet. The Morrisville Chamber of Commerce, which touts the city as the Heart of the Triangle, offers a range of services and aid to businesses, including those run through the Morrisville Innovation Foundation.

3. Mount Airy

Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mount Airy became famous for its granite quarry and its furniture and textile industries. You get a sense of how the citys business leaders take pride in their community from the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce website, which features a live webcam feed of downtown and a weather cam from a local TV station. The city of 10,400, which was the hometown of TV star Andy Griffith, has roughly 1,200 businesses that posted average revenue of $1.4 million per company.

4. Hickory

Visitors to the city of Hickorys official website will find the greeting Welcome to a life well crafted, a reference to Hickorys history as a major furniture-making center. At the site for the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, which covers the city of about 40,000, theres a special section on furniture shopping. Hickory has more than 5,400 businesses, the highest among the top 10 cities and towns on the NerdWallet survey.

5. Morehead City

Morehead City is a port town thats done well by banking on its beautiful beaches and picturesque waterfront district. The town of nearly 9,000 residents in Carteret County bills itself as the gateway to North Carolinas Crystal Coast. Also called the Outer Banks, that 85-mile stretch of coastline includes beaches protected as national parks. The county Chamber of Commerce says its vision is to become the most desirable location for business and leisure in North Carolina. Morehead has about 1,400 businesses with a total of nearly $667,000 in average revenue per company.

6. Conover

Fifty miles northwest of Charlotte, Conover has steadily shifted from a heavy focus on manufacturing to more services-oriented industries. In the wake of the 2008 recession, the city got a boost from the Manufacturing Solutions Center, a 30,000-square-foot research, development and testing laboratory, which opened in November 2012. Conover has only 900 businesses, but they boast average revenue per firm of about $1.9 million.

7. Brevard

Brevard, with a population of about 7,600, is known for its Land of Waterfalls, a major attraction in Transylvania County. Not surprisingly, tourism and summer camps are big economic drivers, although city and business leaders say theyre pushing for a more diversified economy. Brevard has a little over 1,800 businesses, with average revenue per business of about $288,000.

8. Aberdeen

Aberdeen bills itself as a quaint little railroad town steeped in history and is famous for the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway, the largest privately held regional freight railroad in North Carolina. The community of about 6,500 residents recently got news that Reliance Packaging, which makes printed bags and rollstock, is expanding its operations in Aberdeen, bringing several dozen new jobs to the small town. Aberdeen has 540 businesses and roughly $1.5 million in average revenue per business, according to the NerdWallet survey. The Moore County Partner in Progress, the regions economic development organization, has extensive information on Aberdeens business community.

9. Reidsville

Reidsville embraced the slogan Live simply, think big to highlight the citys efforts to diversify its formerly tobacco-dominated economy. It seems the city of 14,360 is succeeding in this as it makes it to the top 10 of the NerdWallet survey. There are a little over 1,000 businesses in Reidsville with average revenue per business of $2.1 million. The Reidsville website has a variety of information on the citys tourist attractions and its business community.

10. Hendersonville

Wineries, breweries and other tourist attractions draw visitors to Hendersonville. The city, which has a population of 13,233, has a supportive business community, highlighted by the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development. The partnership is based in the city and offers a range of services, including support for small companies. Hendersonville has about 2,300 businesses, with almost $914,000 in average revenue per business.


NerdWallet analyzed communities with a population of more than 5,000 and with 500 or more businesses; we excluded places that lacked data. We calculated the score for each location using the following criteria:

Business climate, 65% of the overall score, is based on three metrics from the U.S. Census Bureaus Survey of Business Owners.

  • Average revenue of businesses is 20% of the score. A higher average contributed to a higher score.

  • Percentage of businesses with paid employees is 25% of the score. A higher percentage contributed to a higher score.

  • Businesses per 100 people is 20% of the score. A higher number contributed to a higher score.

Local economic health, 35% of the overall score, is based on three metrics from the U.S. Census Bureaus American Community Survey.

  • Median annual income is 10% of the score. A higher median income contributed to a higher score.

  • Median annual housing costs are 10% of the score. Lower median costs contributed to a higher score.

  • Unemployment rate for residents over 16 years old is 15% of the score. A lower rate contributed to a higher score.

For more related information, visit NerdWallet’s resources on how to start a business.

Image of Pineville Commercial Historic District via Wikimedia Commons.


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Best Places to Launch Your Business in North Carolina

Best Places to Launch Your Business in North Carolina

Best Places to Launch Your Business in North Carolina