Fitchburg, Sun Prairie, Madison all rank high for small business startups

These local communities all have the right stuff for small business growth.

It’s safe to say 2020 was not an easy year for small businesses.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, around 100,000 businesses permanently closed in 2020, and two in three small business owners report 2020 was their hardest year ever. In fact, 61 million small business owners regret starting a business, according to a recent WalletHub survey.

But for many, the entrepreneurial spirit remains alive and well, and Dane County looks to be as lively a place as any in the nation to start a small business. WalletHub recently looked at the best small and large cities in the U.S. to start a small business, and Fitchburg, Sun Prairie, and Madison all received high marks.

On the best small cities list, Fitchburg ranked No. 106 and Sun Prairie No. 208 out of 1,337 cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 residents that were ranked. Madison took the No. 31 spot on the large cities list out of 100 cities that were ranked.

Looking closer at the numbers yields some interesting facts. Fitchburg, for example, was the No. 30 small city nationally for access to resources, which WalletHub ranks based on metrics such as financing accessibility, investor access, human resource availability, higher education assets, workforce educational attainment, working age population growth, and job growth (2019 vs. 2015).

Madison was ranked No. 4 nationally among large cities in the same access to resources category. Additionally, Madison boasts the second shortest average work week in the nation, behind only Buffalo, New York.

Angela Kinderman, president/CEO of the Fitchburg Chamber Visitor & Business Bureau, says there are a number of reasons why Fitchburg is good community to start a small business and it starts with location.

“Fitchburg is centrally located and easily accessed not just by the almost 30,000 residents in our community, but within a 5–10 mile radius a business can attract customers from all over Dane County,” explains Kinderman.

She says a supportive business environment with engaged memberships in the Fitchburg Chamber and the Wisconsin Latino Chamber — both located in Fitchburg — and a strong city economic development department are also contributing factors, as is the mix of local industries ranging from tech to retail and that creates markets, innovation, and collaboration.

While the news of local business closures over the past year was a sobering reminder of how fine a line many small business owners walk, new businesses have also opened during that span and Fitchburg is home to a variety of them.

“We had several new small businesses open in 2020 and several that are still planning to open in 2021,” notes Kinderman. “In 2020 we welcomed Hop Haus Brewing Co., Race Day Events, Four Winds Farm, Heritage BBQ, and Mariposa Learning Center, just to name a few. These businesses provide services to customers all over Dane County and help create the rich fabric of our community.”

Kinderman adds communities like Fitchburg continue to provide fertile ground for business growth both big and small.

“We have multiple areas for growth in Fitchburg, depending on the space needs. We have opportunities for office space, clean lab space, or retail, or new building options. With new single-family housing, apartments, and senior housing that have been added in neighborhoods like Terravessa and along corridors like the renovated Fish Hatchery Road area, there are some good opportunities for entrepreneurs. Also some of our major employers have expanded and increased their workforce, such as Promega. We also welcomed Phoenix, which opened its headquarters in 2020 and brought with it over a 100 new employees. The increased workforce and increased residential creates opportunities for small businesses.”

There remain pandemic-induced hurdles to small business growth locally, but Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, recently told IB that the Greater Madison economy is positioned for a resurgence. “A diverse economy creates more stability, and Greater Madison has the most diverse economy in the nation. However, that stability does not guarantee survival of small businesses, particularly consumer-facing, foot traffic-driven businesses. Greater Madison will recover from this pandemic. The question is how fast and how intact.”

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