Affordable Cities for Startups

For the second year in a row, cities in the South give entrepreneurs the best chances to keep their startup costs low, while big cities remain among the most expensive places to start a new business, new research finds.

The study from SmartAsset revealed that nine of the 10 cheapest cities to start a new business in are in southern states, including three in Tennessee.

To find the cities with the lowest startup costs, SmartAsset collected data on the typical costs of starting and running a business in 80 of the largest cities in the United States. They calculated the total expected startup costs over the first year of operation for a company based on five factors

  • 1,000 square feet of office space.
  • The cost of gas and electricity for a 1,000-square-foot office.
  • The average cost of filing fees for either incorporation or filing as an LLC.
  • Legal and accounting fees.
  • Payroll costs for five full-time employees, earning the city’s median annual salary.

Topping this year’s rankings of the most affordable cities for startups is Chattanooga, Tennessee. The city is attractive for entrepreneurs looking to save money because of its relatively low costs for office space and employee payroll. The research shows that it would cost $225,442 for a business owner with five employees and a 1,000-square-foot office to run a first-year startup there. That’s up about 2 percent from a year ago when the costs were $221,000. [See Related Story: 15 Important Startup Lessons for New Entrepreneurs]

“If you decide to start a business in the Gig City, you’ll be in good company,” the study’s authors wrote. “Many startups and accelerators operate there, including the Lamp Post Group and Gigtank 365.”

Overall, the 10 most affordable cities to launch a startup in are:

  1. Chattanooga, Tennessee: $225,442
  2. Wichita, Kansas: $232,057
  3. Greensboro, North Carolina: $232,326
  4. Columbia, South Carolina: $232,541
  5. Knoxville, Tennessee: $232,620
  6. Little Rock, Arkansas: $233,877
  7. Memphis, Tennessee: $234,524
  8. Lexington, Kentucky: $234,945
  9. Orlando, Florida: $236,513
  10. Winston-Salem, North Carolina: $237,983