While working at Catawba College one afternoon recently, I ran into a mother and teen-aged son touring the college on their own. They were just nosing around the campus, learning and having fun in the springtime, as that all-important question looms: Where do I go to college?

As a by-the-way comment, the mom said: “Salisbury reminds me of New Orleans.”

Hmmmm… I’ll admit that’s one I never thought of.

This mom wasn’t the Bourbon Street type. As it turns out, she was talking about the small shops, many with an artistic flare, that line the streets of the county seat, as well as the small shops dotted throughout the county that are associated with the other nine small municipalities in and around Salisbury, if she had had time to visit.

Rowan County is not called “Original” for nothing. Small businesses are original, and they are our backbone.

1 of 2 in NC

On April 22, the website, wallethub.com, came out with its national list of “2019’s Best & Worst Small Cities to Start a Business.” Salisbury ranked 16th on that list of more than 1,200 cities with fewer than 100,000 residents.  In North Carolina, only one other small city, Wilson, made the Top 20 list.


Along with business-friendliness, here’s some of the methodology that the website used:

  • Business environment (50 points). This relates to average length of work week in hours, average commute time, average growth in number of small businesses, startups per capita, average revenue per business, average growth of business revenues, and industry variety.
  • Access to resources (25 points). The study looked at financing accessibility, investor access, human resource availability, higher education assets (a shout-out to Rowan Cabarrus Community College, Catawba College, Livingstone College, and Hood Theological Seminary!), workforce educational attainment, working-age population growth, and job growth.
  • Business costs (25 points). They’re talking about office space affordability, labor costs, corporate taxes, and cost-of-living. Check out the Rowan County Economic Development website here.

These guys do their homework!

The website, wallethub.com, is owned by Evolution Finance and is based in Washington, DC. It bills itself as the first-ever site to offer free credit scores and full credit reports updated on a daily basis, along with reviews of financial products, professionals, and companies.

The site brags of mentions in more than 1,000 news outlets. Just think of that potential for the good news about Rowan County.

Bigger Not Always Better

To introduce this list, financial writer Adam McCann wrote that size matters when choosing a town to launch a business. “As many veteran entrepreneurs — and failed startups — understand well, bigger is not always better. A city with a smaller population can offer a greater chance of success, depending on an entrepreneur’s type of business and personal preferences,” he wrote.

The good stuff just goes on and on. Martin J. McDermott, one of the members of the website’s panel of experts on small businesses, wrote of advantages such as low overhead, lower rent and salary expenses than a large city, better parking, and the chance to get to know customers and build loyalty. McDermott is a marketing professor at the School of Business & Information Technology at Purdue University.

He recommended that small business start-ups immediately become active in the local Chamber of Commerce (that’s the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber’s Minority Business Council, or the China Grove Board of Trade if you are in the vicinity of China Grove).  He praised the Trump Administration’s new business policy, with the Small Business Optimism Index hitting record highs since Donald Trump became president.

So, the stage is set. The players – such as the Rowan IDEA Center Foundation that works with entrepreneurs – are in place. The IDEA Center, led by Addison Davis, is an entrepreneurial development and innovation lab. It’s a partnership among government, academia and the private sector to support new high-growth ventures in Rowan County and to encourage entrepreneurs to stay in Rowan County.

Rowan County is business friendly, and the rest of the state and nation are finding out about us.