58. Bethlehem, Pa.
Bethlehem, once the Lehigh Valley’s steel capital, is now bustling with tech and biotech startups, thanks to resources stemming from Lehigh University and health centers in the region.
The city welcomes new businesses with open arms, offering technical assistance, low-interest “gap” financing, a tax abatement program, enterprise zone incentives, and a loan pool providing up to $2 million for new and existing businesses. In addition, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, an internationally recognized, state-funded program based at Lehigh University, links early-stage technology firms and established manufacturers with funding, employees, technology, and universities.
The city has been looking to develop other areas of business. Sparking some controversy is a $600-million development project that is slated to include a large casino on the old Bethlehem Steel factory site. But for now, the city remains low-key. Lehigh Valley is centrally located 50 miles north of Philadelphia and 70 miles west of New York City. Low real estate prices (the median home price hovers around $160,000) make it a popular bedroom community for the larger cities, but also an advantageous spot to launch. Hiking and biking trails wind through several parks, and the Lehigh River provides opportunities for boating and fishing. -Peter MacDougall
Pro: Business-friendly environment in a university town
Con: Vegas comes to Bethlehem?
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