The Best Places For Business And Careers

#1 Provo, Utah

Metro Population: 542,700
Projected Annual Job Growth Through 2014: 2.5%

Brigham Young University provides a stabilizing presence to the $16 billion Provo economy. It is the third-largest private college by enrollment in the U.S. BYU is also generating new jobs. During 2010 it ranked third in the number of startups produced through university research—13 in total—behind only nearby University of Utah (18) and MIT (17).

#2 Raleigh, N.C.

Metro Population: 1,169,000
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.9%

The net migration rate to Raleigh was second high­est in the U.S. over the past 5 years as the area added 116,500 more people than it lost. The population has doubled in the past 2 decades.

#3 Fort Collins, Colo.

Metro Population: 306,200
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.7%

Fort Collins boasts an educated workforce—46% have college degrees (U.S. average is 28%) and 18% possess graduate degrees. Credit Colorado State University, which is a major presence in the town.

#4 Des Moines, Iowa

Metro Population: 580,700
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.1%

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie recently traveled to China on a trip organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He met with his counterparts regarding Chinese investment in the U.S. and no doubt made a pitch for the many financial services firms in Des Moines.

#5 Denver, Colo.

Metro Population: 2,602,900
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.6%

Denver is a thriving hub for aerospace, which employs 19,500 people in the private sector—the second-biggest center for the industry in the U.S. Among the 400 employers and suppliers are global giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

#6 Ogden, Utah

Metro Population: 557,600
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.9%

Last year Procter & Gamble opened its first U.S. manufacturing plant in more than 3 decades, 30 miles north of Ogden. The $540 million facility will create 1,000 new jobs.

#7 Lincoln, Nebr.

Metro Population: 306,900
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.9%

Nebraska’s capital has the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. at 3.5%. Mortgage delinquency rates were third lowest in the country in 2011 at 2.8%, according to Equifax.

#8 Dallas, Tex.

Metro Population: 4,356,500
Projected Annual Job Growth: 3.3%

Gross metro product surged 6.2% last year—second best in the nation—to $254 billion. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is undergoing a $2 billion renovation, which began after the city hosted the Super Bowl last year. Four of the 5 terminals will be gutted in a project that will not be completed until 2017.

#9 Austin, Tex.

Metro Population: 1,789,100
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.9%

Austin’s economy is projected to expand 6.2% annually during the next 3 years, fastest in the U.S. The region has a constant influx of young talent thanks to more than 70 colleges and 360,000 enrolled students within a 200-mile radius.

#10 Nashville, Tenn.

Metro Population: 1,620,600
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.0%

Business costs in the Music City are 18% below the U.S. average. Large employers include HCA and Nissan.

#11 Omaha, Nebr.

Metro Population: 878,300
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.8%

Financial services employees make up 9% of the workforce (U.S. average is 6%), with the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway, TD Ameritrade and Mutual of Omaha all situated in the Gateway to the West.

#12 Oklahoma City, Okla.

Metro Population: 1,278,900
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.8%

Overall rank jumped 16 spots from last year as the job and economic prospects for the metro improved dramatically. Major employers include AT&T, Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy.

#13 San Antonio, Tex.

Metro Population: 2,201,400
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.9%

More than half of trade between Mexico and U.S. flows through San Antonio. The city is bolstering its green cred: local utility CPS Energy is committed to making renewable energy 20% of its total capacity by 2020.

#14 Durham, N.C.

Metro Population: 513,600
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.0%

Most of Research Triangle Park is situated in Durham. RTP boasts 170 companies and 42,000 workers. It is one of the largest and most prestigious R&D science parks in the world.

#15 Fort Worth, Tex.

Metro Population: 2,187,000
Projected Annual Job Growth: 3.0%

Fort Worth’s economy is projected to expand 5.8% annually through 2014, according to Moody’s Analytics. American Airlines, a major employer based in Fort Worth, filed for bankruptcy in November.

#16 Seattle, Wash.

Metro Population: 2,696,600
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.7%

Seattle’s IT industry counts more than 100,000 jobs thanks to Microsoft, Amazon.com and Expedia. Facebook’s Seattle outpost is one of its largest engineering offices outside California.

#17 Asheville, N.C

Metro Population: 429,700
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.8%

Business costs are 21% below national average, according to Moody’s Analytics. Asheville is home to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, which is the world’s largest active archive of weather data.

#18 Charlotte, N.C.

Metro Population: 1,799,700
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.0%

Charlotte is hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention in September, a first for the city. Local leaders expect the event to generate as much as $200 million in economic activity.

#19 Fayetteville, Ark.

Metro Population: 474,700
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.8%

The cost of living is 11% below the U.S. average and lowest among top 50 metros. It gets huge boost from $456-billion-in-sales retail giant Wal-Mart, headquartered in Bentonville, part of the Fayetteville metro area.

#20 Houston, Tex.

Metro Population: 6,102,800
Projected Annual Job Growth: 3.2%

Houston emerged from the recession faster than any other major city. It was the fastest growing economy in the U.S. last year at 8.6%.

#21 Atlanta, Ga.

Metro Population: 5,364,300
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.3%

Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson is the world’s busiest airport, with 90 million passengers annually. The median home price in the metro was $98,700 in 2011, down 42% from its peak 4 years earlier.

#22 Minneapolis, Minn.

Metro Population: 3,323,100
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.2%

After a decade of debate Minneapolis will keep its beloved Vikings thanks to the legislature’s approval of a new $975 million NFL stadium. The team will pay $477 million toward construction, with the city and state picking up the remaining tab. The team plans a 2016 opening, with dreams of a Super Bowl someday.

#23 San Francisco, Calif.

Metro Population: 1,795,800
Projected Annual Job Growth: 2.4%

San Francisco makes the cut due to a strong job and economic outlook despite the nation’s highest living costs—a staggering 54% above the average U.S. city. San Fran has a highly educated labor force with 48% of the population possessing a college degree.

#24 Columbus, Ohio

Metro Population: 1,859,700
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.9%

There has been $2.3 billion of public and ­private investment over the last 12 years to revitalize downtown Columbus. Ohio State University ranks second in the U.S. for industry-sponsored research.

#25 Cambridge, Mass.

Metro Population: 1,519,000
Projected Annual Job Growth: 1.6%

Schools like MIT and Harvard fuel the area’s high-tech employment, which at 17.7% is second highest in the U.S., after San Jose, Calif. Cambridge is one of only four metros where 50% of adults have a college degree.

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