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A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Entrepreneurship is thriving in the Mountain West, especially in rural areas, analysis finds

Entrepreneurship is thriving in the rural Mountain West, according to a new index released by the e-commerce company Shopify. The data comes as new business applications are on the rise nationwide.

Shopify paired up with the professional services firm Deloitte to calculate the influence on gross domestic product, jobs supported and other economic impacts of entrepreneurs within their network. The final product is a ranking system of both countries and states within the U.S. – and the Mountain West was the top-performing region in the index.

“These states that are not necessarily as obvious or that you wouldn't assume would have incredible business activity relative to California or New York, for that matter, they're kicking butt,” said Shopify president Harley Finkelstein. “Nearly one-third of entrepreneurs are building their businesses outside major cities.”

The Mountain West had five states – Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho and Nevada – ranked inside the top ten for economic impact generated by entrepreneurs. In Wyoming, jobs supported, gross domestic product impact and business generated from entrepreneurship all grew by about 12 percent between 2021 and 2022. Exports grew by almost 32 percent.

Finkelstein said business-friendly incentives in rural areas, streamlined patent or regulatory processes and improving access to technology is making entrepreneurship more accessible in smaller communities.

“These incredible tax exemptions for business owners, low cost of energy, low operating costs, very educated workforce, all these things create the ingredients needed for more entrepreneurship,” he said.

The Midwest region also performed well in Shopify’s index, and multiple large states – including California and Florida – still rank highly. Finkelstein said one constant theme nationwide since the pandemic has been a greater desire for people to shop locally. One survey found that 70 percent of consumers support small businesses in their community.

“It's the local dry cleaners, it's the local nail salon, it's the local bodega – these are the things that give our cities character,” Finkelstein said. “I think we as consumers have really changed the way we think about buying and we're now voting with our wallets.”

In the Mountain West, many small companies – like Buffalo, Wyo.-based Mountain Meadow Wool, or Hempitecture in Idaho – continue to experience growth.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Will Walkey