Columbia better for startups than Springfield?

Matt Wagner, SBJ ReporterBusinessWeek has an intriguing interactive feature on its Web site that highlights the best small cities for startup companies in each state.

In Missouri, Columbia – home to the Show-Me State’s flagship university – took the honor, so I contacted BusinessWeek to find out where Springfield landed.

It turns out Springfield and Columbia have a lot in common in terms of the 11 factors analyzed in the comparison, but a few key areas kept the Queen City from beating out its smaller but more educated neighbor to the north.

With a population of about 150,000, Springfield has some 60,000 more people than Columbia, but more than half of Columbia’s residents have at least a bachelor’s degree. In Springfield, only about one in four people have at least a bachelor’s. Ironically, Springfield is listed as having 10 universities, compared to three in Columbia.

A concentration of young, creative professionals in Columbia also helped the city beat out competing small cities – those with populations between 20,000 and 200,000 – in Missouri. Almost 8 percent of Columbia’s population is “young and educated,” compared to 4.3 percent in Springfield. And “very creative professionals” account for nearly 20 percent of Columbia’s population, while they only make up about a tenth of Springfield’s population, according to data culled by ZoomProspector for BusinessWeek.

Another interesting tidbit: Columbia has two patents for every 10,000 residents, compared to one per 10,000 residents in Springfield.

So if Columbia is the best place for a startup, how come Springfield has more small businesses per capita?

In Springfield, there are 57 small businesses for every 1,000 residents, compared to 42 for every 1,000 residents in Columbia, according to a comparison of the ZoomProspector data for both cities.

And on a county level, there are more startups per capita in Greene County (3.21 per capita) than in Boone County (3.07 per capita).

So which small city in Missouri is the best for starting a business? You tell us.

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