Nevada, Utah, and Arizona are the best states for starting or expanding small businesses, according to a recent study by Cognetics, a Cambridge, Mass., research firm.

Cognetics primarily relied on business growth data from Dun & Bradstreet and the Commerce and Labor departments to compile the study, "Entrepreneurial Hot Spots: The Best Places in America to Start and Grow a Company."

The research firm also asked local leaders to rank the business environment in their cities on the basis of whether government officials meet with entrepreneurs and whether banks include local business owners on their boards of directors.

The hot growth areas all have major universities, skilled labor pools, airports, and a positive entrepreneurial climate, Cognetics president David Birch said.

Phoenix ranked first among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, Las Vegas was first among the top 25 smaller metropolitan areas, and Utah was the top rural area.

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