For site selection experts and executives looking to locate or expand a business, evaluating different areas in terms of their utilities, transportation infrastructure, access to markets, etc., generally is an apples-to-apples comparison. But evaluating the “quality of life” an area offers for its residents—and for the employees of these new or relocated businesses—is much more subjective. Here are some areas around the country that are hot to attract both businesses and their employees, with top amenities and resources that contribute to excellent qualities for business and for life.
Billings, within Yellowstone County, is the largest city in Montana, with a city-limit population of 110,323. It is also the largest metropolitan and trade area in a 500-mile radius; Billings business and industry serve an area in excess of 125,000 square miles. And the area is accessible, with a variety of daily direct flights to national hubs.
The city is home to three refineries, producing about 180,000 barrels of oil a day from operations in Montana, Wyoming and Canada. Long-term energy resources yield utility rates among the lowest in the nation.
Agriculture is Montana’s No. 1 industry. A crucial part of the Billings economy, it provides critical support for the industry with livestock auctions, financial services and more. A diverse climate helps Montana farmers and ranchers produce varied high-quality food products.
Billings also is home to quality education, from preschools to secondary education. The medical corridor provides the most advanced healthcare services in a four-state area. Two fully equipped hospitals and 40 medical clinics offer medical, surgical and emergency services.
Montana does not have a state sales tax. The state collects property taxes, which funds the university system. County government and schools are primarily funded by property taxes.
History and recreation are part of what gives Billings its tagline: “Montana’s Trailhead.” Billings offers a well-connected trail system locally as well as easy access to Little Bighorn Battlefield, Pompeys Pillar, Bighorn Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, major mountain ranges and more.
Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota
On the surface, the Bismarck-Mandan, N.D., community looks to be a lot like other growing midwestern communities. But as you take a deeper look, you will see a community that is truly making its mark.
Start with the education system: Bismarck and Mandan Public Schools have shown increased enrollment year after year. Bismarck is also home to the Career Academy, which is a joint career and technical education center shared by Bismarck Public Schools and Bismarck State College.
Bismarck State College has announced that it is pursuing becoming “Bismarck Polytechnic College” and offering Bachelor of Applied Science degrees in areas like advanced manufacturing. Another institution, the University of Mary, recently graduated its first engineering student from its new College of Engineering. This continued investment lends itself well for companies looking to fill their workforce pipeline.
Bismarck-Mandan boasts more than 100 miles of walking trails, multiple recreational activities on the Missouri River, as well as nearby campgrounds, hunting and fishing opportunities. The area is located at the intersection of Interstate-94 and U.S. Highway 83, is serviced by two Class 1 railroads and has ample and inexpensive resources like water, natural gas and power.
With its tagline “Make Your Mark,” the Bismarck-Mandan community works to cover the needs of all its businesses.
Chesterfield County, South Carolina
Located in South Carolina, just southeast of Charlotte, N.C., Chesterfield County has easy access to five interstate highways, rail service and three ports. In addition to having one of the lowest costs of living and doing business in the state, Chesterfield County has the largest number of metal-working companies per capita—not only in the state of South Carolina, but in the entire Eastern portion of the U.S.
It’s a place with SC Certified Sites and Industrial Parks with all utilities, including rail and access to vast quantities of extremely pure water, waste-water, reliable competitively priced electricity, natural gas and superior telecommunications.
Chesterfield County also is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with more than 50,000 acres with trails, canoeing and wildlife exploration.
The Chesterfield County School District serves approximately 7,400 students in 17 schools. The district configuration includes two primary schools, seven elementary schools, three middle schools, four high schools and one alternative school. There are 12 universities within a 100-mile radius, along with four technical colleges.
Imagine a place with a small-town lifestyle and big-city connections; a place that’s two hours to beaches and mountains with year-round golf and a temperate four-season climate; a place where family is important and neighbors help neighbors. There’s no need to imagine—you can find all this in Chesterfield County, S.C.
Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming, sits just a few miles north of Colorado. And while part of the Front Range economy, Cheyenne residents enjoy some distinctions as well. Their cost of living is lower in most categories, the residents are exceedingly friendly and the average commute time is only 14 minutes
In many respects, the amenities of Colorado are available to those in Cheyenne while the area maintains the small-town quality of life that is provided by living in a community of 90,000 residents. Not only are taxes low, but the ability to be part of the community is high. Whether visiting the area, new to the community or a long-time resident, everyone is welcome.
The City of Cheyenne provides recreational, leisure and cultural opportunities with weekly events and festivals; the symphony and ballet; concerts and national touring shows; museums and fresh-food markets; an extension park and greenway system; and of course, there is always the great outdoors.
Adventures await within minutes of Cheyenne. The great outdoors of Wyoming provides a rich playground for both the casual nature lover and the avid outdoor enthusiast. Visitors and residents have access to biking, kayaking, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities. With lakes, mountains, wide-open spaces and sunny skies, it’s hard to ask for a better quality of life.
And the best part? People don’t have to wait in traffic to get there.
The City of Emporia is a combination of many “opposites.” Compare the hustle and bustle of the intersection of Interstate 95 and Highway 58 with traffic of 60,000 cars per day, alongside the slower pace of life that is reflected in the rural positioning of the city and its historical, quaint downtown areas. Large national companies and small entrepreneurial businesses both make their homes here.
The annual Virginia Peanut Festival, in its 57th year, attracts thousands of visitors, with rides of today as well as rides that were exciting 50 years ago. Vendors offer new trends in food tasting and also serve traditional fair foods like cotton candy and funnel cakes. And the parade features the new and the old—new wave dance teams alongside firetrucks and tractors.
Outdoor activities range from go-kart races, nearby Gaston Lake jet skiing and exciting travel team or Little League games to biking and walking trails, boating, fishing and bird-watching along the Meherrin River.
Looking for varied dining options? Emporia offers restaurants that support locally grown products, to country cooking, to fast food franchises. Centrally located is the Farmer’s Market, a specialty meat shop, and peanuts at every stop.
Within two hours travel time to the beaches, and just over three hours to the mountains or Washington D.C., stop by and visit Emporia—a place that is always “on your way.”
Gadsden, Ala., offers a lifestyle perfect for anyone’s taste. This vibrant city works hard and plays hard.
Located on the Coosa River at the foothills of the Appalachian chain, Gadsden offers the amenities of a bigger city but the pace of small-town living. High-quality education and healthcare systems provide an extremely secure community environment, whether one is beginning a career, looking to put down roots or entering a more mature phase.
Gadsden is brimming with outdoor recreation opportunities, including world-class mountain biking and running trails at the Black Creek Trails, rock climbing and one of the most prolific largemouth bass fisheries in the nation. Nocculula Falls Park offers outdoor adventure from laid-back hiking and sightseeing to the wildly strenuous Barbarian Challenge.
For those who prefer culture over adrenaline and adventure, Gadsden is a regional polestar for artistic, literary, musical and creative opportunities, including the Gadsden Symphony Orchestra, Gadsden Museum of Art, Gadsden Public Library, Hardin Center for Cultural Arts and many more locations and attractions. There is always an art exhibit, author book talk or live music to suit every taste. Coosa Landing, a riverfront project in the heart of downtown, includes The Venue, a state-of-the-art event and conference space that is part of a new waterfront entertainment, retail and recreation development.
Gadsden may well be the best-kept secret in the South. Visit before the word gets out.
Garner, North Carolina
The Town of Garner, nestled within the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina, is home to more than 32,000 residents and is only minutes from the state capital, Raleigh. The Garner-Triangle Region is one of the smartest areas in the U.S., with nearly half of the population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. This should be no surprise, since Garner is within minutes of 12 universities and colleges, three of which are Tier One research universities.
With over 1 million people within a 30-minute drive, Garner is a center of activity and commerce. The town’s location at the intersection of I-40 and Highway 70—and only 22 minutes from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and eight minutes to downtown Raleigh—gives companies and residents the ability to take advantage of big-city amenities without having the big-city cost.
Currently, North Carolina boasts one of the lowest state corporate incomes tax rates. This, coupled with the fact North Carolina is a right-to-work state, makes North Carolina an ideal area for companies to locate. Garner’s location, cost of doing business and access to a world-class labor pool make it unique when compared to similar sized towns in the U.S. With all that the town has to offer, it’s easy to see why Garner, N.C., is a great place to be.
Grant County, West Virginia
Grant County is nestled in the beautiful Potomac Highlands of West Virginia and offers a bounty for the senses. Natural beauty, pristine waters, lush forests and the majesty of the Allegheny Mountains create an outdoorsman’s paradise. Residents and visitors enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, rafting and watching bald eagles soar along the South Branch of the Potomac River. Heritage fairs and festivals, Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, Mount Storm Lake, Smoke Hole Caverns and striking autumn colors keep visitors returning to the area year after year.
With a diverse industry base ranging from wind energy to hardwoods, the same attributes that entice visitors also offer a moderate pace for businesses and their employees. Located in the heart of the WV Hardwood Alliance Zone, Grant County has 239,000 acres of forest land. It is also the home of Grant Memorial Hospital, the county’s largest employer. South Branch Career & Technical Center and Eastern’s Technology Training Center are both located in Grant County, and Eastern WV Community & Technical College and Potomac State College of WVU are easily accessible in neighboring counties to help prepare and maintain the region’s workforce.
There’s a small-town appeal and a strong sense of community, with regional proximity to Northern Virginia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh and Richmond. Developed industrial parks, affordable housing, low crime and a business-friendly environment make Grant County an attractive place to live, work and play.
It is easy to see why Leesburg has it all. Located at the northern tip of Loudoun County, Leesburg is ideally positioned between the urban east and rural west. Just minutes from the Washington D.C. Metro area and Dulles International Airport, Leesburg offers the best of both worlds—all the amenities of the big city that businesses need, and all the qualities of a historic small town that residents and visitors want. This true and authentic sense of place makes Leesburg the ideal hometown for residents and businesses.
Want a family-friendly location, wrapped in history and offering numerous goods and services? Look no further than Loudoun County’s original Town Center. The brick sidewalks of Downtown Leesburg lead to shopping, dining, professional services, entertainment options and much more. Additionally, Leesburg makes the perfect hub for visiting the many wineries and craft breweries in western Loudoun and the Loudoun Artisan Trail.
Leesburg is the new live music capital of Northern Virginia. The Tally Ho Theatre offers a wide variety of live music acts, from rock to country to alternative. Acoustic on the Green, Downtown Leesburg’s outdoor concert series, provides visitors with free concerts every Saturday evening throughout the summer. Biking along the W&OD Trail has access points in Leesburg, and hiking and kayaking opportunities on the Potomac River are never far.
With its music, art, dining and outdoor entertainment, Leesburg is a quality destination that has it all.
York County, Nebraska
The quality of life in York County, Neb., attracts a wide range of individuals and families of all demographics. This rural county offers charming towns, vibrant downtown areas, strong employers and abundant recreational opportunities.
Two hospitals, Henderson Healthcare and York General, focus on providing quality care at all stages of life. The county offers medical clinics, an urgent-care facility and dozens of specialists. To encourage healthy lifestyles, there are a number of fitness facilities, and outdoor recreation includes numerous trails, kayaking and more. York County also offers a growing shopping and retail sector, and it’s only 45 minutes from the Lincoln metro area.
The award-winning school system includes three public school districts, a Catholic and Lutheran K-8 school, along with a K-12 Lutheran boarding school in York County. According to Nebraska Health & Human Services, there are 29 licensed child-care facilities.
York County is also a very safe place to live, with crime rates well below national averages. Who doesn’t want to live in a community where you can safely go for a run? Or where parents feel secure giving their children more independence? There’s a comfort level to living in a small community where people watch out for each other. And it’s yet another reason to show “Why York County.” T&ID