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Target High-Growth, Not High-Tech

Mark Marich

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If someone asked you to name the U.S. city with the highest percentage of high-growth companies, the safest response--and one given by most everyone--would be San Francisco, probably followed by Boston. But while those two are in the top 5, they trail Washington, DC, Salt Lake City and Austin. In fact, the nation's capital even comes out on top when it comes to raw totals.

"The Ascent of America's High-Growth Companies," a report series released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, reveals that high numbers of fast-growing firms are concentrated in unexpected regions and industrial sectors.

"Our analysis of these fast-growing firms shows us that high-growth company founders can come from anywhere," said Dane Stangler, director of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. "Their firms can be found throughout the country and, rather than following the conventional expectation that high-growth companies are grouped into a narrow technology category, they represent exceptionally diverse industry segments. These findings offer important lessons for economic development leaders, such as to target firms that are high-growth rather than high-tech."

The first report in the series, "The Ascent of America's High-Growth Companies: An Analysis of the Geography of Entrepreneurship," indicates that fast-growing Inc. firms encompass numerous industries beyond the sectors traditionally seen as the reserve of technology-based businesses.

While Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, and other traditional high-tech hotbeds are well-represented among the cities that house high-growth companies, the research shows that Salt Lake City, Utah; Indianapolis, Ind.; Buffalo, N.Y., and several other Rust Belt icons also have accumulated a significant cache of Inc. 500 firms. The greatest number of Inc. firms is clustered in Washington, D.C., with nearly half of these firms operating in the government services sector.

The Top Large Metropolitan Areas by Inc. Firms in the 2000s
  1. Washington-Arlington (DC-VA-MD-WV)
  2. Salt Lake City (UT)
  3. Austin-Round Rock (TX)
  4. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont (CA)
  5. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy (MA)
  6. Indianapolis-Carmel (IN)
  7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (CA)
  8. Raleigh-Cary (NC)
  9. Denver-Aurora-Broomfield (CO)
  10. Atlanta-Shady Springs-Marietta (GA)

Check out the rest of the top 20 and other details at

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