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Massachusetts small businesses thrive in these counties

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August 11, 2023
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Massachusetts small businesses thrive in these counties

In 2021, the IRS received a whopping 5.4 million business applications—an all-time high since the U.S. government began tracking this data in 2004. The year with the second-highest number of new business applications? 2020. Today, small businesses employ nearly half of the nation's workers, according to a Chamber of Commerce report.

It's fair to say that the past few years have been banner years for small businesses, but what about regional differences? The business climate in a small town in Texas is likely not the same as a small town in Connecticut. The Chamber of Commerce report found that the Midwest was the most business-friendly region, thanks to the relatively low cost of living, well-educated workforce, and regulations lowering taxes and easing zoning restrictions for businesses.

Of course, the East and West coasts also have plenty to offer, from California's Silicon Valley and Hollywood studios to New York's financial hub to Massachusetts' prominence in the aerospace, defense, and information technology industries. A few states—including Delaware, Wyoming, and Nevada—even allow you to incorporate your business within their borders without ever setting foot there.

For even more specific data, let's take it a step further by analyzing counties. Are certain counties more friendly to small businesses than others? To pinpoint the areas where small businesses abound, altLINE used Census Bureau data to find the counties in Massachusetts with the highest concentration of small businesses in 2021, calculated as small establishments per 1,000 residents. Small establishments are defined as those with fewer than 500 employees. Counties with fewer than 1,000 residents were excluded from the analysis, as well as counties for which the Census Bureau didn't have population estimates.

Another important factor to consider: States where nonresidents are allowed to incorporate businesses will also have a higher ratio of small businesses to residents since not all small businesses are actually operated by people living in that state.

Taking a close look at the type of counties that topped the list in each state also reveals some interesting trends. World-class vacation destinations are well represented on the lists of each state, perhaps because tourists are looking to get a sense of how the locals live through small businesses like restaurants, bakeries, bars, and boutiques.

While the top counties in each state do include a few major cities, less populated counties with smaller towns are much more common. Although most of the nation's small businesses are located in major metropolitan areas, those that are located in rural areas tend to be more stable—possibly due to loyalty from local residents or the absence of competition from large corporations.

Keep reading to discover the counties in Massachusetts with the highest concentration of small businesses, and see how it compares across 50 states. It just might give you inspiration for your next endeavor.

This story features data reporting by Paxtyn Merten, writing by Annalise Mantz, and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 50 states.

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#14. Hampden County

- Total small business establishments: 9,272 (20.0 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 462,849

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#13. Hampshire County

- Total small business establishments: 3,429 (21.0 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 163,088

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#12. Worcester County

- Total small business establishments: 18,507 (21.5 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 862,132

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#11. Franklin County

- Total small business establishments: 1,534 (21.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 70,943

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#10. Bristol County

- Total small business establishments: 12,884 (22.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 579,895

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#9. Essex County

- Total small business establishments: 19,342 (24.0 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 807,485

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#8. Plymouth County

- Total small business establishments: 12,935 (24.3 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 532,919

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#7. Middlesex County

- Total small business establishments: 44,134 (27.3 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 1,617,099

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#6. Norfolk County

- Total small business establishments: 20,217 (27.9 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 724,692

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#5. Suffolk County

- Total small business establishments: 21,681 (28.1 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.4%
- 2021 population: 771,765

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#4. Berkshire County

- Total small business establishments: 3,736 (29.1 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 128,621

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#3. Barnstable County

- Total small business establishments: 8,651 (37.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 232,594

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#2. Dukes County

- Total small business establishments: 1,173 (55.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 21,109

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#1. Nantucket

- Total small business establishments: 1,195 (82.4 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 14,499

This story originally appeared on altLINE and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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