Best Industries for Starting a Business in 2012

Why work around the clock to build an a company in a declining industry when you could have a much easier ride in one that’s booming? Or, to paraphrase the great investor Warren Buffett, if you put a brilliant manager with a business with lousy economics, it’s the business that tends to keep its reputation. That’s why many savvy entrepreneurs make sure the wind is at their backs before taking the plunge.

To help you build — or keep — a reputation for brilliance, Inc scoured the data produced by research companies, consulting firms, and even the U.S. Census Bureau to find the best business opportunities for startups. The result: our exclusive list of 11 industries that are ripe for starting or growing a business in 2012.  

E-commerce

Thanks to the ability to order one-off customized products and the ease of comparison shopping, Americans are spending more and more money online. That’s expected to continue, with the e-commerce industry poised to grow 8.8% annually through 2017. Employment will creep upward as well, from 177,642 e-commerce related jobs last year to 183,396 by the end of 2012 and nearly 206,000 in 2017. Americans are expected to spend $334.3 billion online by the end of 2017. See more

Restaurants

Full-service is what’s for dinner, as growing disposable incomes allow even the budget-conscious to eat out—and eat healthier. Restaurant sales are poised to increase by 4.5% this year and 5.5% in 2013. The industry already employs 12.9 million people this year, or 10% of the total U.S. workforce. See more

Internet Publishing

Internet publishing continues to thrive as more people go online for information and entertainment. The industry grew 11.4% annually between 2007 and 2012, and to pick up from there. Between 2012 and 2017, it should grow at a 16.2% clip, reaching $72 billion. Within the industry, online video will be the fastest-growing segment. Exhibit A: Sites like Hulu, that attract advertisers by requiring viewers to sit through commercials before they can view the content they crave. See more

Mobile Games

No industry on our list has been growing as fast as mobile gaming, which currently employs 28,000 people at 1,500 game developers and boasts about $4.5 billion in sales. Compare that to 2007, when there were just two mobile game-makers collecting $2 million in revenue and employing 32 workers. That adds up to a 397% annual growth rate, and tons of opportunity for entrepreneurs. The best news is that big growth is by no means behind us: Industry growth is actually expected to accelerate thanks to high smartphone adoption rates. As of the end of February, more than 104 million people in the U.S. were smartphone users, a 14% increase from just three months earlier. See more

Pet Care

Forget about old-fashioned kennels. Today’s pet owners take their animal companions for massages and psychotherapy. And with 62% of U.S. households owning a pet, there’s a lot of money being spent—an estimated $52.87 billion in 2012. That number’s been growing at about 4.1% annually for the past five years, and is expected to grow at 5.4% for the next five years. See more

Residential Construction

After years in the doldrums, the residential construction industry is finally gaining traction, thanks to pent-up demand and slowly-improving incomes. For the next five years, revenues in the residential constrution industry are projected to increase an average of 10.4 percent per year, reaching $573.1 billion in 2017. The number of enterprises–and maybe one of them will be yours–is expected to increase to 556,090 in 2017, up from 340,544 this year. The housing industry isn’t expected to reach the fever pitch of 2005, but given what happened after, that’s probably a good thing. See more

Big Data

In an increasingly digitized world, everything we do creates an electronic record—and entrepreneurs are jumping in to organize, analyze and strategize, using all of it. Big data was a $3.2 billion industry in 2010, but is expected to jump to $17 billion by 2015. See more

Environmental Consulting

Between the BP oil spill and new laws aimed at reducing carbon emissions, the environmental consulting industry continues to boom. It’s been growing at about 39% a year since 2007, with sales expected to top $20 billion this year. Over the next five years, revenues are projected to grow by 45% a year, and the industry is expected to add some 52,000 jobs. See more

Information Technology Consulting

As businesses transition to mobile and cloud-based computing, the field of IT consulting grown by an average of 8.3% a year over the last five years. The industry’s best customers are energy, health care, and other businesses that require a significant amount of customer interaction. They’re looking to move some of those interactions to mobile devices, keeping the industry moving right along. The IT consulting field added nearly 200,000 jobs from 2007 to 2012. See more

Transportation and Logistics

Among the biggest beneficiaries of the economic recovery will be businesses that help move products from point A to point B. Freight transporters alone have already seen sales rise at about 20.5 percent a year, and that may be just the beginning. As domestic manufacturing gets stronger, and as companies look to cut their environmental impact and their costs, the opportunity for transportation and logistics companies will get even bigger.See more

Water

Over the next few years, expect to hear just as much about the ‘blue’ economy as we all hear about the green one. The planet is increasingly strapped for clean water: If everyone in the world used as much water as the average American, we’d run out of clean water within eight years. Within the U.S., severe droughts are increasing the demand and price of water; within five years, the water industry will be growing at about 14.8 percent annually. As water irrigation and supply centers are becoming privatized, there’s a huge opportunity for start-ups to join this $62 billion industry and help solve what may be the planet’s most important problem. See more

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