Growing Cities in New York State for Running a Small Business

31 Mar
Best Growing Cities in New York State for Running a Small Business

New York State is home to many diverse, mid-size cities that are experiencing economic renaissances and proving to be attractive places for opening or expanding small businesses. Excelsior Growth Fund’s Business Advisory Service team created a list of 6 vibrant cities from Long Island to Buffalo. When considering how to grow your business in New York State, keep these up-and-coming places in mind. 


Buffalo is the second-largest city in New York State and is located on the eastern shores of Lake Erie, at the head of the Niagara River and less than a mile from Canada. It was the first U.S. city to leverage hydroelectric power, and when it was at the forefront of steel and automotive manufacturing and Great Lakes shipping, the city’s population was nearly 600,000. 

Buffalo is undergoing a major resurgence, spurred in part by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion initiative,” in which $1 billion in public investment has driven new cluster economies like biotech, advanced manufacturing and green energy, and driven several billion more in private investment. The city has a focused economic development and revitalization plan and new initiatives are underway to further bolster innovation. These include entrepreneurial competitions such as 43North, which offers annual prizes of $5 million in capital in addition to incubator space, expert mentorship and tax incentives. 

Business incubators such as The Foundry offers affordable rental space, mentoring, business classes and workshops, and connections to local support services. The West Side Bazaar is a small business incubator that has enabled many immigrant, refugee, and low-income individuals to pursue their dreams of small business ownership.

From neighborhood business incubators to the high growth entrepreneur-in-residence programs offered by Launch NY, there is a variety of organizations and resources to start or expand your small business in Buffalo


Ithaca, on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake in the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region, is a small city that embraces entrepreneurs. It offers many programs to assist in start-up and expansion of every type of business from high-tech industries to coffee shops. 

Ithaca’s also home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College, which contributes to its college-town atmosphere. A renewed effort has been made to integrate the colleges into the surrounding communities and leverage the highly-skilled workforce. Groups such as Ithaca Startup Community bring together students and entrepreneurs and provide them with networking and growth opportunities with events like “Ithaca Tech Meet-Up.”

Rev: Ithaca Startup Works is a non-profit business incubator that leverages resources from New York State and local educational institutions. It offers entrepreneurs places to grow their businesses, access expert advice and business development opportunities, as well as exclusive access to subject matter experts and an entrepreneurial community to help small business owners achieve success in less time. 

Long Island City

Long Island City (LIC) is the western-most neighborhood in Queens—one of America’s most diverse counties—and it is an authentic and vibrant neighborhood with a mix of uses, including residential, industrial, commercial office, retail, tech, and cultural. It is home to a wide range of businesses including JetBlue, Citi Bank, Silvercup and Kaufman Astoria Studios, Brooks Brothers, Lyft, and Standard Motor Products. 

Situated directly on the picturesque East River waterfront, the core of Long Island City was rezoned in 2001. Since then, the community has emerged as one of New York City’s most exciting and rapidly growing business centers with a bustling arts and cultural community including MOMA PS1, the Sculpture Center, the Museum of the Moving Image, and Socrates Sculpture Park. 

Its centralized location provides unparalleled access to all transportation networks—public transit, highways, bridges, tunnels, and airports—and its proximity to Manhattan and Brooklyn has made it an attractive destination for businesses. In addition to traditional manufacturing, LIC has become a haven for food manufacturers as well as breweries and distilleries, including Amy’s Bread, Juice Press, Rockaway Brewery, and Astoria Distilling.

Long Island City Partnership, the Local Development Corporation, provides businesses that are already in LIC or looking to relocate to LIC with the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, in Westchester County, is the eighth largest city in New York, and one of the most densely populated cities in the state and nation.  Long known as a bedroom community of New York City with a vibrant industrial and retail presence (especially since the arrival of the railroad), Mount Vernon is entering a new era of revitalization following the post-manufacturing dip of the 1980s and last decade’s Great Recession.

At present, Mount Vernon’s resurgent commercial and industrial sectors are helping to restore its local economy, leveraging the New York State’s Empire Zone in the early 2000’s and recently engaging with the newly transformed Mount Vernon Industrial Development Agency (“MVIDA”).  In fact, manufacturing companies and nationally recognized businesses for major retailers such as Tiffany and Co. continue to play an integral role in the community’s diversified economy.

An initiative born out of MVIDA is the “Beehive,” a small business incubator where prospective and existing small businesses can gather, exchange ideas, network, and receive technical assistance.  MVIDA is applying a holistic approach by including stakeholders outside of the business sphere while tapping into expertise in the academic and private sectors.  As a result, Mt. Vernon has become a haven for both small businesses and residents.


Located on the South Shore of Long Island, Patchogue is just 60 miles east of Manhattan and boasts the only commercial brewery on Long Island – the Blue Point Brewing Company. Patchogue has a strong entrepreneurial community that’s been boosted by the creation of a downtown community eco-system. Millions of dollars in commercial and infrastructure investments have spurred year-round economic growth.

New developments with lower-cost housing and apartments have led to nearby graduates of St. Joseph’s and Briarcliffe Colleges to stay in the area, and the influx of new residents has led to a surge in the retail and restaurant sectors. Patchogue offers thriving service organizations, too, such as the Patchogue BID and Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce that provide critical resources to both existing businesses and those looking to relocate. 

In the summers, Main Street is shut down to traffic to make way for the Alive after Five Festival that offers live music, entertainment and more than 90 craft and retail vendors. Patchogue is also home to a bustling Long Island Railroad station and the Ferry to Fire Island, a popular summertime destination. 


Troy, only three hours north of New York City, was once coined the “new Brooklyn” due to its rise in trendy restaurants, boutiques and more and over the past few years. Originally known for its history as the home of Uncle Sam, Troy boasts a quirky and charming culture that can be seen in its historic and picturesque architecture, annual events like “The Enchanted City” and the Victorian Stroll, and a weekly farmer’s market along the Hudson River. 

Coworking spaces such as the new Troy Innovation Garage offers an open, shared working and community space for creative business professionals. Members get access to not only working and private meeting space, but also networking and exclusive events.

Along with Troy, other emerging Capital Region cities include Schenectady and Albany, which are experiencing growing tech industries with a cluster impact, given that all are within a 30-minute drive of each other. For entrepreneurs in hospitality or restaurant industries, nearby Saratoga Springs offers another option as a popular spot for summer travelers during horse-racing season such as boutique shops, restaurants and bars, and the region is collectively known for breweries, distilleries and cideries.

Did You Know?

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Small Business Resources in Buffalo Niagara

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About Excelsior Growth Fund

Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF) helps businesses in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania grow by providing streamlined access to business loans and advisory services. EGF’s signature product, the EGF SmartLoan™, provides up to $100,000 in fast, transparent, and affordable financing through a secure online platform. Larger loans up to $500,000 are also available. EGF is a nonprofit organization and is certified by U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Learn more