By CASEY JUNKINS
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — A national finance website ranks Wheeling ahead of Santa Monica, Calif., Canton, Ohio, Fort Myers, Fla. and nearly 1,200 other municipalities as the 61st-best small city in which to start a new business.
“Talking to the locals, everyone says this is a really up-and-coming place,” Lewis said of the area around her Market Street shop.
“We’re glad to be a part of it.”
WalletHub assembled the ratings, which place Wheeling ahead of every other city in West Virginia as the best place to start a new business. The ranking is welcome news to city leaders, but Mayor Glenn Elliott and Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said Wheeling can do even better.
“I think we need to continue to focus on making Wheeling a place where businesses can succeed, where people want to live and spend their time,” Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said. “No matter how well things are going, I don’t think we will ever be satisfied or take our foot off the gas. There is always room for improvement and problems that need solved.”
WalletHub rated 1,261 cities whose populations are between 25,000 and 100,000 residents. Factors in the rankings include:
— Average number of hours per work week
— Number of business startups
— Labor costs
— Industry variety
— Cost of living
— Access to higher education
— Access to credit
— Taxes and regulations
— Availability of office space
Wheeling scored particularly well in the areas of higher education, credit, taxes and available office space. The city did not perform as well in the metrics for business startups and average number of hours worked.
Thalman said city leaders hope to improve the quality of life in the ongoing effort to attract even more new business and investment.
“The city will continue to work to attract events, fairs and festivals to our city. The current council has shown a commitment to improving our parks, playgrounds and roads,” Thalman said.
“Council is not satisfied with our recycling program and is looking at ways to improve the city’s recycling program. Many young people today want to live in a city with a robust recycling program.”
Lewis said she and her husband found much of the infrastructure needed for their business already intact at the Market Street location.
This made their decision to open their nutrition center in the Friendly City much easier.
“It was pretty much ready to go. All we really had to do was paint,” she said. “It’s a really nice atmosphere around here.”
Other West Virginia cities ranked by WalletHub finished as follows: Huntington, 216th; Morgantown, 318th; Parkersburg, 417th; and Charleston, 493rd.
“The WalletHub ranking is encouraging because it shows that the outside world is taking notice of the investment opportunities in the city of Wheeling,” Elliott said. “We still need to do more to attract the type of workforce that 21st century companies expect.
“We already have great schools, a low crime rate, and affordable housing, but we need to focus on improving overall quality of life issues in the city — things like a more vibrant downtown, better public transportation and/or ride-sharing options, improved neighborhood parks and playgrounds, etc.”
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