San Luis named best small city in Arizona to open a business

Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2016 1:15 am | Updated: 8:33 am, Mon Apr 25, 2016.

By Matt Harding, Yuma Sun staff writer and Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

Entrepreneurs looking to start a business in a small Arizona community might want to take a look at San Luis — mostly because there are a lot of people looking for full-time employment.

The border city of about 30,000 people was ranked first in the state by the online financial advice firm WalletHub as the best small city for startups.

Just ahead of Yuma, San Luis ranked first in the entire country for communities with high worker availability. While unemployment doesn’t seem like a benefit for an area, it does mean that people are ready to work.

San Luis council member Maria Cecilia Ramos told the Sun: “We have the employees ready and willing — that’s a plus for us.”

“It’s not only a plus,” said Vice Mayor Matias Rosales, “but it’s an added feature that we can offer the community.”

“We’re a border community to a neighboring city of 300,000 people — 8,000 to 9,000 people cross daily,” Rosales continued. “So we have a lot (of workers) to pull from, not only locally, but internationally.”

But unemployment numbers are unable to show and explain the whole San Luis or Yuma County economy, which relies on the seasonal agriculture business.

Rosales cited those seasonal agriculture workers, which make up a bulk of the community, as the reason why the unemployment figure is so high.

“I think it’s great that the numbers are coming down, but I don’t see that as an accurate perception of what we have happening locally,” he said.

Ramos called the summertime in San Luis “unemployment season,” adding that many workers go back to Mexico where they have homes and family.

“They don’t want to live over here all the time,” she said. “They want to make money, and go back (to Mexico).”

Rosales said many of the agricultural workers will follow seasonal agriculture work and go to Salinas, Calif. when the season is done in Yuma County and then come back in September.

“It’s just the way (the economy) works,” he said.

Aside from the agriculture industry, greatly influenced by migrant workers, the city’s new call center, Advanced Call Center Technologies, has brought 800 jobs into San Luis, said Rosales.

Rosales also cited the prison and school systems as some of the other highest employing entities in San Luis.

But he and Ramos both would like to see more businesses come to San Luis.

“We’ve got a lot of pluses,” Ramos said. “We’re the seventh safest city in Arizona. If a business wants to start here, they’re looking at ‘how are my employees going to be?’ ‘Are they going to be scared coming to work?’”

SafeWise recognized them as the seventh safest city in February 2016, and Ramos said the city likes to tout these acknowledgments.

“Besides the seventh safest city, we’re also the safest port of entry for the state of Arizona — and I think actually across the whole border,” Rosales said. “We don’t have the issues you see in Texas, Tijuana (and) Mexicali.”

Council member Ramos added, “We’re the gateway to the Sea of Cortez. We promote that too. We have a great relationship with Mexico.”

While WalletHub ranked San Luis as the best small city in the state to start a business, it was only No. 275 nationally—still in the top quarter of the 1,268 small communities that were studied.

WalletHub also concludes the area’s low household median annual income of $31,064 is the 54th lowest of the small cities. What that means, according to the report, is that there is probably a ready pool of workers willing to take jobs at startups — and at the salaries such companies are likely to offer.

WalletHub also found some positive reasons for those looking to start businesses to check out some other small Arizona communities.

Sierra Vista came in No. 379 nationwide. Its strongest factor was the low cost of office space.

In fact, only Bullhead City had cheaper rents among Arizona communities.

At No. 400 is Casa Grande, bolstered by a cost of living that is the 88th lowest among small communities nationwide. It also had the highest average revenue per business of any of the Arizona cities, at more than $5 million a year.

Flagstaff managed to come in at No. 478. Its high cost of living and office space rent was offset by WalletHub’s computations that business revenues over the past five years are growing faster than 90 percent of the other small cities and towns studied.

Prescott, at No. 547, got a leg up based on an analysis of the number of potential investors on a per capita basis. But it lost points because of the cost of living.

Prescott Valley scored lower despite having a much lower cost of living than its neighboring community, at least in part because of the dearth of investors.

At the other extreme is Oro Valley which ranked No. 985 on the list.

Part of that is a high median income, which WalletHub takes as a sign of a high cost of labor. Office space in the community is also relatively expensive.

The only thing that kept it from ranking even lower is the fact that more than half of the town’s residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest percentage of any Arizona community.

Marana did not fare much better, coming in at No. 947. It was marked down by the high median income of $74,817, bested only by the $83,809 figure of Queen Creek

Welcome to San Luis

Photo: Matt Harding/Yuma Sun


WalletHub ranked San Luis the best small city in Arizona to start up a business.


Crossing the border

Photo: Matt Harding/Yuma Sun


Vice Mayor Matias Rosales said 8,000 to 9,000 people cross into San Luis every day, many of them to work in the city. He added that the port of entry was recognized as the state's safest.