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Ft. Collins No. 5, Denver No. 9 on Best Places for Biz list

Western Cities Dominate Top 25


From Forbes.com

Looking for opportunity? Head west to Colorado, Texas and Utah, which all landed multiple locales near the top of our 13th annual list of Best Places for Business and Careers. The recession spared few U.S. cities, wiping out 9.4 million jobs between November 2007 and August 2009. Many will never return, and those that do you probably won't find on the East or West Coast. For the most active areas of job creation (and lower costs of doing business) you have to go to the heartland, home to 80% of the top 25 regions on our list of Best Places for Business.

In most of these hot hubs you'll find a strong university or two, providing rich cultural life and the kind of technology transfer that sparks entrepreneurial activity-giving that educated population lots of reasons to stick around.

Raleigh ranks No. 1 after dipping to third last year. Low business costs (18% below the national average) and a smart labor force (42% have a college degree) make North Carolina's capital an attractive spot for employers like First Citizens Bank and Progress Energy. Job seekers get it: The net migration rate to Raleigh was the second highest in the U.S. over the past five years.

At No. 5, is Fort Collins, a large college town and home to Colorado State University. Many high-tech companies including Hewlett Packard, Intel, AMD, Amago, among others, have relocated to Fort Collins to take advantage of the resources of CSU and its research facilities. Up and coming industries within the area include clean energy, bioscience, and agri-tech businesses. The large college-age population supports the local music circuit and a number of well known microbreweries, which give the city its college-town atmosphere.

A big metro that made the top 10, in addition to the three Texas locales, is Denver, which ranks No. 9. U.S. economic growth has been tepid since the recession ended, but Denver's economy grew 3.9% last year and is expected to grow 3.9% annually through 2013 according to Economy.com. Denver's great quality of life and educated workforce make it a favorite with companies in industries from aerospace and bioscience to energy, financial services and information technology. Major employers include IBM, Lockheed Martin and Wells Fargo.

Our ranking of Best Places looks at the 200 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. These range in size from the New York City metro, with to 11.6 million people, to Laredo, Texas, home to 252,000 people. We consider 12 metrics relating to job growth (past and projected), costs (business and living), income growth, educational attainment and projected economic growth.

We also factor in quality of life issues like crime rates, cultural and recreational opportunities and net migration patterns. Lastly we included the number of highly ranked colleges in an area per our annual college rankings. A tip of the cap to Moody's Economy.com, which provided much of the data, including the economic forecasts. Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling's BestPlaces, put together a culture and leisure index for Forbes and also crunched the crime numbers for us. College attainment data is compiled by the Census Bureau.