Salisbury earns ranking on national list of best small cities to start a business

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2021

SALISBURY — Entrepreneurs looking to open up shop in a small city should consider Salisbury, according to a ranking from the website WalletHub.

With a total score of 59.58, Salisbury was ranked 33rd on WalletHub’s Best Small Cities to Start a Business for 2021.

“Anytime your community is listed on one of these national publications that positive news might inspire someone to say ‘Okay, other people see that this is a wonderful community to start a business,’” said Elaine Spalding, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. “That may give them the momentum to launch their own business.”

Utah landed six cities in the top 10, with St. George and Cedar Point claiming the top two spots with scores of 67.67 and 67.48, respectively. WalletHub is a personal finance website based in Washington, D.C, that releases a number of studies annually. 

To determine its rankings, WalletHub compared more than 1,300 U.S. cities with fewer than 100,000 residents across 20 key metrics. Salisbury ranked 174th in office space affordability, 143rd in labor costs, 155th in average growth in number of small businesses, 427th in startups per capita, 605th in average revenue per business and 220th in industry variety. All of those grades came in above the average ranking of 669.

Statesville came in at No. 40 on the list and Mooresville was ranked No. 78.

WalletHub didn’t release a list of best Small Cities to Start a Business in 2020, but Salisbury did rank 16th in the 2019 report. Although a drop from 16th to 33rd might not appear to be a good thing, WalletHub Communications Manager Diana Polk said the site does not encourage direct comparisons between reports from different years because it is constantly updating its methodology.

Salisbury’s top-40 ranking is both a reason for celebration and a sign of validation, Spalding said. Obtaining a high ranking in the WalletHub report, she said, has been an objective of hers and other Salisbury business leaders for several years.

“The WalletHub listing was one that we actually had as a goal to try to get our community listed because a lot of entrepreneurs pay attention to that,” Spalding said. “I think it’s great that Salisbury is listed on that.”

Even during the pandemic, Spalding said the chamber is getting calls from local residents who were or still are considering launching an operation of their own.

“We have received a number of inquiries from women-owned businesses, Black-owned, Latinx-owned businesses wanting to get started,” Spalding said. “It’s very encouraging to me.”

Spalding pointed to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Small Business Center, the Chamber’s minority business council and Salisbury’s robust internet infrastructure as reasons why the city has been able to cultivate a good climate for business creation.

“Everybody here has been doing everything they can to encourage people who have been tire kicking and thinking about starting their own business,” Spalding said.

Latoya Price, interim director of Downtown Salisbury, said she believes there are several new initiatives that will further improve Salisbury’s reputation as a good place to launch a business.

“We’re also pleased to welcome two great financial assistance programs here in Salisbury to assist business owners even further — the Kiva micro-lending platform in partnership with Self-Help Credit Union and the Black business development program, 1MBB initiative with Operation Hope,” Price said.

Kiva, launched in Salisbury earlier this year, expands safe and affordable loan options for minority small business borrowers who may not have access to traditional sources.  Earlier this month, Salisbury was the second city to opt into Project Hope’s plan to grow and support 1 million Black-owned businesses across the nation over a decade.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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