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The 10 friendliest cities for small business

Marc Romanelli | Getty Images

Owning your own business can be tough no matter where you live, but choosing an entrepreneur-friendly city can make a big difference in achieving success.

Every year, Thumbtack ranks the U.S. cities that are the friendliest for entrepreneurs. For the 2015 list, 95 U.S. cities were ranked on 11 metrics, including ease of starting a business, tax codes, and training and network programs. The survey used data from nearly 18,000 small business owners across the U.S.

Read on for the 10 U.S. cities that rank as the friendliest in which to own a small business and to see the unique strengths and weaknesses of the top small business locales across the country.

— By CNBC's Sarah Whitten
Updated 15 March 2016

10. San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas
Richard Cummins | Getty Images

There's more than one reason to remember the Alamo.

San Antonio fell out of the top 10 list in 2014, but it's back in this edition. It's ranked highly since Thumbtack began surveying in 2012, and rejoined the top 10 because of strong zoning and land-use regulations, as well as helpful training and networking programs for entrepreneurs.

The city still needs to work on hiring of new employees, however, as respondents rated this factor lower in 2015 than in the previous two years.

Top 3 strengths
Training and networking: No. 7
Environmental regulations: No. 9
Tax code rank: No. 9

Biggest weakness
Ease of hiring: No. 44

9. Boulder, Colorado

Chris Rogers | Getty Images

It's a first for Boulder, Colorado, and the city must be on a Rocky Mountain high after beating out state capital Denver and Colorado Springs for a spot in Thumbtack's top 10.

Boulder scored highly in ease of starting a business and on health and safety regulations.

Its weaknesses include ease of hiring, and zoning and land use laws.

Top 3 strengths
Ease of starting a business: No. 13
Health & safety: No. 32
Licensing regulation: No. 34

Biggest weakness
Zoning: No. 89

8. Fort Collins, Colorado

Fort Collins, Colo.
Source: Wikipedia

Colorado is clearly a state that needs to be on the radar of entrepreneurs, with Fort Collins ranking right above Boulder.

Fort Collins' overall friendliness ranked No. 1 among all cities when it comes to training and networking programs.

However, like Boulder, ease of hiring remains a major weakness, as well as health and safety laws and environmental regulations.

Top 3 strengths
Training & networking: No. 1
Ease of starting a business: No. 17
Licensing regulation: No. 31

Biggest weakness
Zoning: No. 87

7. Houston

Houston
MedioImages | Photodisc | Getty Images

Houston has been a part of the friendliest small business cities ranking since 2013, when it peaked at No. 3, but slipped a little in 2015. The city remains a top locale for starting a business and scores highly for its business friendly local government.

Houston has seen a dip in its rank for training and networking programs aimed at entrepreneurs.

Top 3 strengths
Ease of starting a business: No. 4
Overall regulations: No. 6
Tax code rank: No. 6

Biggest weakness
Training & networking: No. 26

6. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee
Malcolm MacGregor | Flickr | Getty Images

Like several of the cities in the top 10, Nashville has its work cut out for it building a strong networking and training program for small businesses, but the home of country music has seen a boost in job growth and business regulations since 2014.

The city is a tax-friendly location and has a highly involved local government, which earned it a No. 6 ranking in 2015.

Top 3 strengths
Ease of starting a business: No. 11
Tax code rank: No. 12
Licensing regulation: No. 12

Biggest weakness
Training & networking: No. 71

5. Knoxville, Tennessee

Richard Cummins | Getty Images

About 200 miles east of No. 6 city Nashville is Knoxville, which has the second-highest rating for zoning regulations and friendliness of local government when it comes to employment, labor and hiring.

The city has a weak training and networking program for small businesses, ranking No. 84 for this metric.

Top 3 strengths
Ease of starting a business: No. 1
Employment, labor & hiring: No. 2
Zoning regulations: No. 2

Biggest weakness
Training & networking: No. 84

4. Austin, Texas

Elizabeth W. Kearley | Getty Images

One of four Texas cities to grace the top friendliest cities list, Austin held the No. 1 slot for the last three editions.

The city has seen a decline in zoning, licensing and health and safety regulations, leading to its drop from the top spot.

Despite this downturn, Austin remains one of the strongest cities to start a business and for entrepreneurial programs.

Top 3 strengths
Training & Networking: No. 8
Ease of starting a business: No. 9
Tax Code Rank: No. 23

Biggest weakness
Employment, labor & hiring: No. 50

3. Richmond, Virginia

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Richmond is a city on the rise. It has seen an exponential rise in confidence for job creation and training programs since 2013 and shows few signs of slowing down.

Top 3 strengths
Health & Safety: No. 1
Ease of hiring: No. 2
Training & networking: No. 4

Biggest weakness
Zoning: No. 19

2. Dallas

Dallas, Texas
Kanonsky | Getty Images

Dallas has been a top contender on Thumbtack's list of friendliest cities since 2012. While respondents considered hiring to be difficult, Dallas remains one of the best places to start a business and for environmental regulations.

Top 3 strengths
Employment, labor & hiring: No. 1
Overall regulations: No. 2
Tax code rank: No. 3

Biggest weakness
Training & networking: No. 23

1. Manchester, New Hampshire

Denis Jr. Tangney | Getty Images

Surprised? Manchester, New Hampshire, ranks in the top percentile for job creation, business growth and licensing regulations.

While its training and networking programs for entrepreneurs could use some work, this New England city is the friendliest city for small businesses.

Top 3 strengths
Licensing regulations: No. 1
Ease of starting a business: No. 2
Tax code rank: No. 2

Biggest weakness
Training & networking: No. 28

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