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Wisconsin small businesses thrive in these counties

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August 11, 2023
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Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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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#50. Fond du Lac County

- Total small business establishments: 2,256 (21.7 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 104,166

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#49. Buffalo County

- Total small business establishments: 289 (21.7 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.0%
- 2021 population: 13,312

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#48. Shawano County

- Total small business establishments: 888 (21.8 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 40,812

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#47. Milwaukee County

- Total small business establishments: 20,144 (21.8 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 924,207

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#46. Kewaunee County

- Total small business establishments: 451 (21.9 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 20,577

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#45. Rusk County

- Total small business establishments: 313 (22.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.4%
- 2021 population: 14,116

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#44. Florence County

- Total small business establishments: 102 (22.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 4,586

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#43. Waupaca County

- Total small business establishments: 1,168 (22.5 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 51,992

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#42. Sheboygan County

- Total small business establishments: 2,654 (22.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.5%
- 2021 population: 117,697

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#41. Grant County

- Total small business establishments: 1,171 (22.8 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 51,285

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#40. Douglas County

- Total small business establishments: 1,013 (23.0 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 44,026

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#39. Iowa County

- Total small business establishments: 554 (23.3 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 23,777

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#38. Jefferson County

- Total small business establishments: 2,002 (23.3 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 85,796

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#37. Wood County

- Total small business establishments: 1,733 (23.4 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.5%
- 2021 population: 74,085

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#36. Crawford County

- Total small business establishments: 378 (23.5 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 16,082

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#35. Taylor County

- Total small business establishments: 470 (23.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.4%
- 2021 population: 19,944

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#34. Lincoln County

- Total small business establishments: 671 (23.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 28,453

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#33. Green Lake County

- Total small business establishments: 454 (23.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 19,249

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#32. Burnett County

- Total small business establishments: 400 (23.9 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 16,759

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#31. Forest County

- Total small business establishments: 222 (24.0 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 9,262

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#30. Portage County

- Total small business establishments: 1,678 (24.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 69,429

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#29. Washington County

- Total small business establishments: 3,324 (24.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 137,237

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#28. Columbia County

- Total small business establishments: 1,418 (24.3 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 58,404

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#27. Brown County

- Total small business establishments: 6,551 (24.4 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 268,814

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#25. Chippewa County

- Total small business establishments: 1,628 (24.4 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 66,628

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#25. Marathon County

- Total small business establishments: 3,365 (24.4 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 137,746

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#24. St. Croix County

- Total small business establishments: 2,349 (24.7 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 95,055

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#23. Marinette County

- Total small business establishments: 1,039 (24.8 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.4%
- 2021 population: 41,849

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#22. Eau Claire County

- Total small business establishments: 2,652 (25.0 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 105,988

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#21. Polk County

- Total small business establishments: 1,147 (25.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 45,521

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#20. Dane County

- Total small business establishments: 14,347 (25.5 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 561,724

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#19. La Crosse County

- Total small business establishments: 3,089 (25.9 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 119,367

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#18. Price County

- Total small business establishments: 370 (26.3 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 14,055

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#17. Walworth County

- Total small business establishments: 2,774 (26.4 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 105,200

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#16. Green County

- Total small business establishments: 988 (26.7 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.5%
- 2021 population: 37,018

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#15. Outagamie County

- Total small business establishments: 5,145 (26.9 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 191,309

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#14. Bayfield County

- Total small business establishments: 442 (27.1 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.1%
- 2021 population: 16,304

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#13. Sauk County

- Total small business establishments: 1,812 (27.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 65,740

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#12. Langlade County

- Total small business establishments: 544 (27.9 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 19,505

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#11. Iron County

- Total small business establishments: 178 (28.7 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.4%
- 2021 population: 6,193

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#10. Barron County

- Total small business establishments: 1,349 (28.9 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 46,746

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#9. Pepin County

- Total small business establishments: 216 (29.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 7,386

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#8. Ashland County

- Total small business establishments: 474 (29.5 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.6%
- 2021 population: 16,054

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#7. Ozaukee County

- Total small business establishments: 2,796 (30.2 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 92,551

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#6. Washburn County

- Total small business establishments: 515 (30.7 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.8%
- 2021 population: 16,760

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#5. Waukesha County

- Total small business establishments: 12,677 (31.0 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 409,080

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#4. Sawyer County

- Total small business establishments: 632 (34.6 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.7%
- 2021 population: 18,247

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#3. Oneida County

- Total small business establishments: 1,371 (35.8 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 38,282

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#2. Vilas County

- Total small business establishments: 977 (41.5 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 99.9%
- 2021 population: 23,522

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#1. Door County

- Total small business establishments: 1,291 (42.5 per 1,000 residents)
- Share of establishments that are small: 100.0%
- 2021 population: 30,406

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

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