Study attributes rank to low cost of living
By Robert Cloud
A recent study by a consumer finance website, NerdWallet, ranked Waupaca as the ninth best place to start a business in Wisconsin.
“We have always known that Waupaca is a great place to start and own a business and this just reinforces it,” said Terri Schulz, president of the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce.
NerdWallet analyzed 118 municipalities in Wisconsin, each with a population of at least 5,000.
Although most of the top 10 cities are suburbs of big cities or are close to one, Waupaca defies what the report found as the norm for cities that encourage business start-ups.
Waupaca is the smallest city on the Top 10 list, with 6,044 residents. It is also one of three cities in the Top 10 that are relatively distant from larger cities.
“As one of three small communities which is not located next to or a suburb of a larger community I think this shows that our businesses work hard to be successful and they work together to promote each other,” Schulz said.
NerdWallet noted that Waupaca is “the second-most affordable place on this list, with a monthly median housing cost of $777 — which is likely low because of its location far from major cities.”
Jonathan Todd, an economic writer with NerdWallet, was responsible for the study. He said the study analyzed two basic categories: the city’s economic health and its business climate.
Factors in a city’s economic health examines median annual incomes, median annual housing costs and the unemployment rate.
The category of business climate include the average revenues of local businesses, the number of businesses per 100 people and the percentage of businesses with paid employees.
Waupaca’s median individual annual income was $34,821 in 2013, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau Survey.
However, Waupaca’s monthly housing costs, which includes mortgages (or rent), real estate taxes, insurance, utilities, neighborhood association fees and fuel, is only $777.
“Residents in Waupaca have more spending power because they spend less of their income on housing,” Todd said. “The cost of living is one of the lowest in the state.”
He also noted that Waupaca’s 4.9 percent unemployment rate is only slighter higher than the state’s 4.6 unemployment rate.
NerdWallet’s study found that Waupaca has 673 businesses, which is about 11 percent per 11 residents.
Todd said the number of businesses includes “the foundry down to independent accountants. It includes firms with employees and the self-employed.”
Nearly 48 percent of Waupaca’s businesses have paid employees, making it the second highest among the Top 10.
“Waupaca is well above the state’s median of 32 percent of businesses with paid employees,” Todd said.
The study calculated that the average revenue per business in Waupaca is nearly $1.68 million.
In his report, Todd attributed Waupaca’s successful business environment to joint efforts by the city government and the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce.
“For many years the chamber and the city have worked together to make Waupaca ‘The Place to Be’ for every business whether large or small,” Schulz said.
NerdWallet is an online consumer finance information service that was founded in 2009 and by 2015 had 200 employees and $64 million in funding.
To see the complete report, go to www.nerdwallet.com/blog/small-business/places-start-business-wisconsin/