This issue of Inc. includes our annual Metro Report, in which a crack team of editors and writers presents its picks of the best places to do business in the United States. (See "Editors' Choice," June 1991, [Article link].) If only we were all so objective. Here's my choice of the cities with the best, worst, and most overrated business climates around.
Miami: They just get it -- enterprise, that is. Not a single professional manager in town. Lots of immigrants, though, with good old American values. Probably because most of them aren't Americans.
Any city in the Midwest: While the rest of the country's been debating "competitiveness," the heartland's manufacturing companies have been quietly going about the business of making themselves competitive. Many of the smallest ones practice leading-edge forms of capitalism we pansies in other parts of the country haven't dreamt of.
Orange County: Overcrowded, expensive, waterless -- which hasn't kept Japanese companies like Mazda from making it their U.S. home. Modern infrastructure, with John Wayne Airport looking like a mini-O'Hare. Great concentration of tech companies, and yet none of the clubbiness of Silicon Valley. No longer a suburb of L.A. More like Dallas on the Pacific.
North Dakota: I know it's not a city. There are no cities in North Dakota. Nonetheless, a great place for back offices of all kinds. Terrific workers. Family-farm values. No distractions. Holiday Inn rooms at $60 per night.* * *
Philadelphia: The Baghdad of the U.S. economy. Nothing works. Don't tell me about all the hot young Philly growth companies. Of the 20 Inc. 500 companies in the metropolitan area, 19 are located as far out of town as they can get.
New York: They still don't get it, do they? The city has lost all the cultural and business fringes that gave it vitality. Small manufacturers were last seen heading in the same direction as artists, writers, filmmakers. New York refugees could put Hoboken, N.J., on the map yet. Want to see what Manhattan will look like 10 years from now? Visit Philadelphia.
Nashua, N.H.: Doesn't exist. Creation of a bored editor at Rand McNally who wanted to test the gullibility of readers. It worked. People moved there. Some actually relocated companies. The only hick town in the United States with honest-to-God traffic jams. How hot can a city be when you have to identify its state every time you mention it?* * *
Salt Lake City: Getting better but still not ready for prime time. Considers Fortune rating as the number one business city the most important event since the discovery of cold fusion in a test tube. Well-educated, honest, hardworking labor force, but no spark, say local business owners. Too many white men wearing suits. There isn't a decent Chinese restaurant in town.
Seattle: Brits say, "Where there's muck there's money." This town lacks muck. Too damned precious. Dearth of Pacific Rim verve. Overly dependent on Boeing, sugar daddy of the local economy. Townies drive around with bumper stickers saying, "Californians Stay Home." Truth is, they are. In recent years Washington has lost population to its southern neighbor -- to the tune of 15,000 people.