THE RIGHT CUSTOMER BASE IS KEY
Several solution providers interviewed for this story emphasized the importance of a state's business opportunities, one of the metrics used in developing the CRN ranking. In the CRN analysis Delaware, Utah and Arizona are the top three states in that criteria.
"Is the customer base I want to pursue here in this region?" is how Cumulus Global's Falcon put it.
Take Colorado, for example. The Denver area is heavily populated with startups, and small and midsize businesses -- exactly the kind of customers many solution providers look for.
"I would say about 90 percent of the businesses here is SMBs," said Platte River Networks' Suazo. "We see it as a huge opportunity."
Fowler likewise estimates that between 90 percent and 95 percent of Covalent IT's customers in Colorado are SMBs. "The [business] environment here is very unique," he said, noting that he's originally from Nebraska where he said there are fewer numbers of small businesses.
Venture Technologies, while based in Mississippi, is looking to surrounding states such as Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana for more of its future business opportunities. "I don't know that the growth of the company will come from within the state," Gibert said. "We are pursuing a growth strategy in new markets."
ISC in Wyoming is doing likewise, expanding to commercial customers in Colorado and New Mexico, which now account for about 40 percent of the solution provider's business.
But Falcon notes that with cloud computing, collaboration software and remote monitoring tools, it's easier today for a company to serve customers far beyond its immediate geography. And that gives entrepreneurs more freedom to decide where to base a solution provider business. While Falcon's Cumulus Global is in Massachusetts, two-thirds of its customers are outside New England -- one is even in Hawaii.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH: QUALITY OF LIFE
The CRN analysis considered cost-of-living and other personal quality-of-life factors. Virginia comes out No. 1 in that category, a finding that doesn't surprise Aptaria's Lawlor. "It's not Silicon Valley-expensive; it's not New York," he said.
Suazo makes the same pitch for his state. "Colorado definitely has a good quality of life. The cost of living isn't obscene. I know a lot of people who moved from California to Colorado. I'd say about half my neighborhood is from California," he said. (Colorado ranks No. 4 in our analysis for overall quality of life/personal cost of living while California is No. 28.)
Another quality-of-life factor considered in the analysis was the percentage of households with Internet access, a criterion in which Utah is No. 1.
The analysis evaluated states for their overall prospects for innovation and growth, examining such criteria as entrepreneurial activity, the number of patents issued to people and businesses within a state, and the value of a state's exports per manufacturing and service worker. California, not surprisingly, comes out on top in that category.
Beilman spent some time in Silicon Valley before moving to Massachusetts to start Iuvo Technologies. And while he said there are many differences between the two regions, he said Massachusetts does have an entrepreneurial culture. "I'd be willing to bet this area is in the top two or three in innovation." (He's right. The study ranks Massachusetts No. 2 for innovation and growth.)
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