When you think of traditional business networking, you think of New York. It's one of the world’s great business hubs, teeming with industry leaders, bustling events, and endless opportunities. For many years, it has been heralded as the epicenter of commerce, but it's not the only city where you can forge powerful connections.
Here is a review of the top 20 cities in the U.S. with unbeatable networking potential, from hidden gems to burgeoning tech hubs. Whether a fresh grad or a seasoned professional, these cities will help you build valuable connections.
7 Interesting Facts About Top 20 Cities for Networking in the U.S
- San Francisco scored the highest social and economic index points and has the highest average annual wage.
- Houston has the highest number of event venues - hotels, restaurants, and coworking spaces.
- Denver took first place in the networking category. It has the highest number of networking events.
- Charlotte has the lowest unemployment rate.
- Los Angeles has the highest number of event promoters.
- Las Vegas has the same number of new businesses as Austin.
- Among the 20 cities, Atlanta has the most coworking spaces.
Best Networking Hubs in West South Central Region: San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Houston
Houston ranked 1st as the best networking city in the country. Houston has approximately 630 modern hotels, 147 coworking spaces, and 6,000+ bars and restaurants.
The city also provides a conducive environment for startups to thrive. It's ranked among the top cities that favor small and medium businesses. 39% of the registered businesses in the city have been operating for five years or less. Houston was ranked 17th in the composite and social and economic performance metric.
Austin was ranked fifth on the list, followed closely by Dallas, which scooped the 8th position. Austin beat Dallas by only 0.6 points in terms of the quality of the networking opportunities.
Dallas outranked Austin for the number of coworking places, restaurants, and hotels that can host a networking event on short notice.
Austin takes pride in having the second-highest percentage of new businesses and startups (43%) and the lowest unemployment rate (5.3%).
56% of Austin's residents who are 18 years old and above have a bachelor's degree. Its focus on providing the best education earned it the 4th position. Austin accrued 56.7 points to beat Dallas in the composite economic and social index.
The fourth city in Texas that made it to the top 20 is San Antonio. It was ranked 19th overall and 11th for its potential to host networking events and has the second-highest number of hotels.
Best Networking Cities in the South Atlantic Region – Atlanta, Washington D.C, Charlotte, Tampa, Miami, and Orlando
Atlanta is a hidden gem for businesses and entrepreneurs, and it's the best networking city in the South Atlantic region. In total, the city scored 57.9 points. It ranked 4th for its networking and event-hosting capabilities and 5th in the social and economic index.
Coworking spaces have been instrumental in helping professionals network in a formal setting. Among the 20 cities on the list, Atlanta has the highest number of coworking spaces. It beat other cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
The city was ranked 5th for having the highest number of networking events specifically tailored for businesses and entrepreneurs searching for new talent. It also had the second-lowest unemployment rate across the list.
Washington DC was ranked position 11 with 47.6 points. Its performance in all the metrics was desirable but didn't match other cities. For example, it was ranked 6th in the social and economic index.
The average annual wage is estimated to be $83,900. 58% of the city residents have at least one bachelor's degree. In terms of active businesses, Washington, D.C., was ranked 5th.
Charlotte is another networking city in the South Atlantic region in the top 20 cities for networking in the U.S. It scored 41 points across all the ranking metrics. Its low unemployment rate significantly boosted its final score.
Tampa also made it to the list for its good performance in social and economic metrics. It was ranked 5th in the list of lowest unemployment rates. 39% of the businesses are new establishments and startups. Tampa took the 15th position.
Miami nearly missed a spot in the top 20 and lost to Las Vegas to secure the 17th position. Its superior event-hosting capabilities significantly boosted its ranking. It has the 4th highest number of event promoters, tumbling Houston, Austin, and Atlanta.
Regarding social and economic composite metrics, Miami's performance was average. 40% of the businesses that contribute to the local economy are startups.
Despite being ranked in the last 5 cities on the list, position 18, Orlando accrued 37.8 points. It has 300 event avenues ideal for impromptu and planned networking events.
Best Networking Cities in the West Pacific Region – Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland
Compared to other regions, the Western Pacific region has the highest number of cities on the list. Los Angeles took the first place in the area and 3rd place overall. In total, Los Angeles scored 59.3 points.
Some significant statistics that helped it secure the 3rd position were the number of restaurants, hotels, and event promoters. The city also has the most modern coworking spaces ideal for business and entrepreneurship events. Notably, Los Angeles was beaten by Houston in the compound event-hosting capability metric.
Its robust and dynamic business landscape makes it an ideal professional networking hub. It was ranked 5th in terms of quality and number of networking opportunities. The Los Angeles metropolitan area is home to 281,000 active companies. It's easy to see why it's ranked 5th for the highest number of job openings.
Seattle got a total of 53.4 points and secured the 7th position. Its performance across the different social and economic indicators influenced its final ranking and points score. In particular, Emerald City nearly beat Austin and San Francisco to secure the 3rd position.
Seattle has the highest number of residents with a bachelor's degree and 4th highest average annual wage at $80,020. It was ranked 2nd in the number of networking events metric.
San Diego city is in position 9 and performed evenly in all the indicators. Its best performance was in the social and economic compound metric, with an average annual wage ($71,000). In the networking opportunities metric, it ranked 4th.
San Francisco ranked position ten despite its below-average performance in most metrics. In the networking opportunities index, it was ranked 15th and would have been lower were it not for its decent annual average wage of approximately $94,000.
It was ranked 2nd for having the second-highest level of education. 58% of the residents who are 18 years old and above have at least a bachelor's degree. 36% of the businesses contributing to its metropolitan area economy are startups. It was ranked 16th in this social and economic metric.
Portland finished 13th with a total of 42.4 points. Its highest performance was in the number of networking events index and educational attainment (seventh-highest).
Best Networking Cities in the West Mountain Region – Denver, Phoenix, and Las Vegas
Three cities from the West Mountain region made it to the list.
At the top is Denver, that scored 60.7 points and rivaled Houston for the City of Networking title.
Denver's best performance was in the social and economic index, ranked 4th. The average annual wage in Denver is $71,790, and 40% of the businesses operating in the wider metropolitan area are startups (less than five years old).
The demand for skilled workforce is high. Luckily, 52% of Denver residents aged 18 years and above have at least a bachelor's degree.
Phoenix also made it to the list and performed well in the social and economic indexes. However, its performance in the event-hosting metric was average. In the second quarter of 2023, the city was ranked 7th for the highest job openings, beating Boston, Denver, and San Francisco.
Las Vegas is in position 16 and has the same number of new businesses as Austin. The U.S Census Business Dynamics Statistics reckon that 43% of the Las Vegas metropolitan area companies are new businesses and startups under five years old.
Best Networking Cities in Midwest & Northeast – Chicago and Boston
Two cities from the Midwest and Northeast made it to the top 20 networking cities in the U.S., Chicago and Boston.
Chicago secured the 6th position and garnered 55.5 points. It earned most of the points for its commendable networking and event-hosting capabilities.
Approximately 174,000 businesses operate in its metropolitan area, providing many job opportunities. In the second quarter of 2023, the city had 59,688 job openings, and the average annual wage is $66,170.
It also offers different networking spaces, from podiums to coworking spaces and restaurants for hosting conferences and other similar networking events.
Boston closed the list with 37.4 points. Despite finishing 20th position, Boston has the third highest annual average wage (80,810). Its educational attainment score is average; 48% of its residents who are 18 and above have a bachelor's degree.
Methodology of Ranking and Resources
The research focused on 11 different indicators/factors, which we grouped into three compounded metrics for accurate analysis.
Points were allocated in direct proportion to each metric's value, except the unemployment rate. Cities with low employment rates were rewarded more points than their counterparts.
Also, cities with a population below 200,000 per the U.S. Census data as of December 31, 2021, were excluded.
Here is a breakdown of the three compounded metrics.
Networking Opportunities: Maximum points 45.
- Networking events – 25 points
- Job openings – 15 points
- Firms in the metropolitan area - 5 points
Social and Economic: Maximum points 30
- Annual mean wage – 10 points
- Educational attainment – 5 points max and represented as a percentage
- Unemployment rate 2021 – 5 points max and represented as a percentage
- Percentage of new businesses – 10 points max and represented as a percentage
Event Hosting Capabilities: Maximum points 25
- Hotels – 5 points
- Coworking spaces – 10 points
- Restaurants & drinking places – 5 points
- Event promoters – 5 points
- Glassdoor data on June 30, 2023
- 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics records
- U.S Census Bureau 2020
- U.S. Census Bureau's 2021 County Business Patterns
- Latest CommercialEdge Data
- July 6, 2023, MeetUp Data
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