PenFed Foundation study reveals top ten U.S. cities for veteran entrepreneurs in 2020

New York City, Washington, D.C. and Chicago top the list despite economic impacts of COVID-10

SAN ANTONIO, VA (November 10, 2020) — Today, the PenFed Foundation, a national 501(c)3 founded by PenFed Credit Union, revealed the findings of its annual study on the top U.S. cities for veteran entrepreneurs. Edelman Intelligence conducted the study with the PenFed Foundation Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP) whose mission is to create a robust network for veteran-owned start-ups and businesses.

The results showed that New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle and Minneapolis were the top cities for veterans to start their businesses, with Atlanta, Boise City and Jacksonville leading the emerging cities list. The study focused specifically on each city’s livability, economic growth, support for veterans, and ability to start a business. The full report can be found here.

This year’s study is unique in that cities were evaluated amid the pandemic’s impact on economies nationwide. To account for the economic impacts of COVID-19, the study considered additional factors such as homelessness, number of COVID-19 cases, PPP loans distributed and jobs created, business bankruptcy filings and personal foreclosure rates, and percent of the population that lives in a childcare desert.

“We’re incredibly proud to work alongside these veteran entrepreneurs and empower them as they pursue their aspirations for civilian life and realize their career goals,” said PenFed Foundation President and retired Army General John W. Nicholson Jr. “A crucial part of their entrepreneurial success is the network and ecosystem surrounding them. That’s why we enjoy recognizing the cities that support veteran businesses and the greater military community.”

“PenFed is proud to support the military community and our highly skilled veteran entrepreneurs who have unique experiences and grit to succeed during uncertain times. Supporting veteran entrepreneurs provides more jobs and opportunities for the military community as veteran-owned businesses often hire more veterans,” said James Schenck, president and CEO of PenFed Credit Union and CEO of the PenFed Foundation. “It’s more important than ever to support veteran entrepreneurs. The goal of our top cities report is to celebrate American cities while inspiring them to do even more to support veteran businesses.”

The top 20 cities for veteran entrepreneurs with (changes since the 2019 report) include:

1)    New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area (no change)
2)    Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area (+4)
3)    Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area (-1)
4)    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area (-1)
5)    Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area (+9)
6)    Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro Area (+3)
7)    Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area (-3)
8)    Madison, WI Metro Area (+21)
9)    Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area (+3)
10) Cleveland-Elyria, OH Metro Area (+1)
11) Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area (-4)
12) Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area (+1)
13) Austin-Round Rock, TX Metro Area (-5)
14) Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI Metro Area (+40)
15) Raleigh, NC Metro Area (+12)
16) Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metro Area (-6)
17) Boise City, ID Metro Area (+27)
18) Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area (no change)
19) Jacksonville, FL Metro Area (-3)
20) Columbus, OH Metro Area (-5)

The top five emerging cities for veteran entrepreneurs are:

1)    Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI Metro Area
2)    Boise City, ID Metro Area
3)    Madison, WI Metro Area
4)    Raleigh, NC Metro Area
5)    Minneapolis-St Paul-Bloomington, MN Metro Area

The study collected a robust set of quantitative data from existing PenFed partners and openly available data sources to ensure an objective ranking of the top cities for veteran entrepreneurs.

“With this study, we hope to celebrate the cities that provide a healthy environment for veteran entrepreneurs to thrive, and encourage emerging cities that are making strides to become more military and start-up friendly,” said Seda Goff, director of veteran entrepreneurship at PenFed Foundation. “Military veterans have the necessary service mindset, work ethic and ability to remain poised and strategic amid pressure and uncertainty, they just need the right education, preparation and investment to support them. Their skills are extremely valuable to the civilian corporate world, and we’re proud to help support them as they contribute to their communities.”

Goff has a long-standing career working with military veterans and entrepreneurs. She served as city leader for Bunker Labs and teaches entrepreneurship at American University. Goff shared the findings of this study shortly after the launch of the VEIP Masters Program, the PenFed Foundation’s year-long start-up fundraising accelerator for veteran entrepreneurs.

VEIP has a three-pronged approach to create a robust network for veteran-owned start-ups and businesses:

  1. Investment of seed capital, providing access to other capital investment programs and connecting entrepreneurs to funders;
  2. Preparation through the Master’s Program, a year-long fundraising accelerator; and
  3. Education through virtual and in-person Pop-Up Lab workshops.

To learn more about the PenFed Foundation’s work with veteran entrepreneurs, or to donate to the Foundation, please visit

About PenFed Credit Union

Established in 1935, Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is America's second-largest federal credit union, serving 2.9 million members worldwide with nearly $34.6 billion in assets. PenFed Credit Union offers market-leading certificates, checking, credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and a wide range of other financial services with members' interests always in mind. PenFed Credit Union is federally insured by the NCUA and is an Equal Housing Lender. To learn more about PenFed Credit Union, visit, like us on Facebook and follow us @PenFed on X. Interested in working for PenFed? Check us out on LinkedIn. We are proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer.

About PenFed Foundation

Founded in 2001, the PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization committed to empowering military service members, veterans and their communities with the skills and resources to realize financial stability and opportunity. It provides service members, veterans, their families and support networks with the skills and resources they need to improve their lives through programs on financial education, homeownership, veteran entrepreneurship and short-term assistance. Affiliated with PenFed Credit Union, the Foundation has the resources to effectively reach military communities across the nation, build strong partnerships, and engage a dedicated corps of volunteers in its mission. The credit union funds the Foundation’s personnel and most operational costs, demonstrating its strong commitment to the programs the Foundation provides. Equal Housing Opportunity. To learn more, visit


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