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Fast cities

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Table of Contents


Fast Cities





For all the challenges cities face--congestion, crime , crumbling infrastructure , environmental decay, plus occasional issues with basic civility--they are still where jobs and youth gather, where energy begets even greater energy, where talent masses and collides. Worldwide, the pace of urbanization is only accelerating. This year, for the first time, more of the earth's population will live in cities than in rural areas--a cool 3.2 billion, according to United Nations estimates. "In a world where we can now work anywhere, we're tending to concentrate in fewer and fewer places," says Carol Colletta, president of CEOs for Cities, an advocacy group. "Smart people are choosing to live near smart people."


Of course, not all "urban agglomerations," in the parlance of demographers, are created equal. Rapid growth has a way of laying bare the gap between cities that merely get bigger and those that actually flourish. For every Karachi, which is on pace to double its population every 20 years but mired in poverty and violence, there's a Shanghai, the emerging creative engine for an entire continent. For every Havana, which looks pretty much the same as it did 40 years ago (except worse), there's a Curitiba, which has spent 40 years mapping its extremely livable future. For every St Louis, a spot as bland as a flat Bud Light, there's a hip joint like Fort Collins, Colorado, a high-tech hub that's also the microbrew capital of America.


In other words, there are winners in this battle for the future. We call them Fast Cities. They are cauldrons of creativity where the most important ideas and the organizations of tomorrow are centered. They attract the best and brightest. They are great places to work and live.


To find them, we started with data from Carnegie Mellon assistant professor Kevin Stolarick, the numbers guru behind Richard Florida 's The Rise of the Creative Class, which helped define what makes great cities tick. We relied on CEOs for Cities' CityVitals survey, authored by Joseph Cortright of Portland, Oregon--based Impresa Inc.; sustainability data from SustainLane; and insights from the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto.


What makes a Fast City? It starts with opportunity. Not just bald economic capacity, but a culture that nurtures creative action and game-changing enterprise. Fast Cities are places where entrepreneurs and employees alike can maximize their potential--where the number of patents filed is high, for instance, or where the high-tech sector is expanding.


The second component: innovation. Fast Cities invest in physical, cultural, and intellectual infrastructure that will sustain growth. "The real forces for change in America and around the world are the mayors and the local communities," says Florida , now a professor of public policy at George Mason University.


Finally, Fast Cities have energy, that ethereal thing that happens when creative people collect in one place. The indicators can seem obscure: number of ethnic restaurants, or the ratio of live-music lovers to cable-TV subscribers. But they point to environments where fresh thinking stimulates action and, by the way, attracts new talent in a virtuous cycle of creativity.


Sifting through the data, we identified 30 Fast Cities around the globe, which we're presenting in nine categories, from Creative-Class Meccas to Green Leaders. We've also noted 20 locales on the verge of Fast City status, plus 5 Slow Cities--and 5 too fast for their own good.


Don't agree with our choices? Go to fastcompany.com/cities and vote for the places you think are most shaping our future. We'll share the results in a subsequent issue.




Market potential index - which emerging market should you consider for starting a business?


see related pages from GloboTrends:  emerging markets  and  marketing opportunities in emerging markets  and Investing in emerging stock markets  and Private equity and venture capital in Emerging Markets  and Rise of purchasing power in emerging markets and International IQ



"You started your business, you exploited the opportunities in your local markets and now, like all entrepreneurs, you are looking for other avenues of growth. In today’s economy, emerging markets are booming and providing many great opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to expand their brand.


However, with so many choices which market is right for your business?

MSU-CIBER has created a resource for small to mid-size companies designed to help solve this dilemma called the Market Potential Index (MPI). The MPI scores the market potential of the 26 countries considered emerging markets by The Economist - all of which are experiencing rapid economic growth and positive social change. The Index uses eight dimensions and takes into consideration size, growth, potential capacity and risk. The index has been published annually since 1995 and has been successfully utilized by many companies and investors to identify sustainably fast growing emerging countries. 


Two well-represented regions in this year's rankings are Asia and Central Europe. Asia is home to the top three countries: Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. These three countries have held the top spots for five years running and have been fueled by exports to developed markets and an emerging middle class. Central Europe also has three countries in the Top 10 including Czech Republic in fifth, Poland in sixth and Hungary in eighth.  Many Central European countries have recently experienced accelerated growth rates and a rising standard of living through the exportation of goods to established European countries, the privatization of state-owned corporations and the introduction laws that encourage new business development.


Egypt has been in the news recently for its government overthrow and is therefore a great case study for the MPI. In this year's rankings, Egypt ranked particularly high in growth (7th) and capacity (6th) and relatively low in risk (21st) and freedom (22nd). Overall, one could interpret this country to have a relatively high market potential, but the index calls into question its risk and freedom. The protests demanding greater democracy could drastically increase their freedom rankings if Egypt is able to translate its new government into a more open economy. Egypt currently ranks 16th overall and would be a great place to research more thoroughly if conditions improve. 


If your business is looking to expand abroad, make sure you are well informed and start your learning process with the MPI and globalEDGE’s Diagnostic Tools.


Most recent year:  http://globalEDGE.msu.edu/resourceDesk/mpi/

Past years:  20092008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1997, 1996


see related pages from GloboTrends:  emerging markets  and  marketing opportunities in emerging markets  and Investing in emerging stock markets  and Private equity and venture capital in Emerging Markets  and Rise of purchasing power in emerging markets and International IQ






Creative-Class Meccas


Population > 14.5 million

Leading indicator > In the last decade, foreign investors have sunk $73 billion into Shanghai-based projects

Fast companies > China Display; China East Airlines

Chaotic, crowded, noisy--and wildly, crazily creative. China's historic center for innovation has emerged more recently as a magnet for Western-owned corporate design centers and research labs. The clash of old and new--from the city's shabbily elegant French Concession to the austere art galleries of Suzhou Creek to its hundreds of skyscrapers--gives rise to an exhilarating sense of possibility.



NEW YORK, New York

Population > 18.8 million

Leading indicator > Nation's highest per capita income in the urban core

Fast companies > Viacom; JetBlue Airways; Goldman Sachs

Love it or not, New York is sui generis. It has among the highest proportions in the nation of college-educated foreign residents, of ethnic restaurants, and of small businesses, according to CityVitals. It also has 42 million tourists, a reinvigorated stock market, and a plan from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the city more eco-friendly.





Population > 4.2 million

Leading indicator > No. 1 in the world in scientist citations

Fast companies > Lucasfilm; Wild Brain; and nearby, the whole Silicon Valley crowd

Is there a more continuously creative city in the world? The epicenter of USA entrepreneurship is still tied to Silicon Valley's fortunes, but it's also hatching its own digital-media sector and a biotech and biomedical hub around UCSF.





Population > 12.6 million

Leading indicator > Named UNESCO's first-ever City of Design; more than 14,000 students are enrolled in the University of Buenos Aires's design and architecture programs

Fast company > Pol-ka Producciones

It took an economic catastrophe for Argentina's capital to realize its creative destiny. Since 2001, the nation has played down historic ties to Europe in favor of homegrown culture. So Buenos Aires's Palermo SOHO district has emerged as a design hub, with more than 300 new shops and studios and a slew of upstart film- and television-production companies. The Centro Metropolitano de Diseño promotes and funds innovators in art and design


Atlanta, Georgia

Los Angeles, California

Mumbai, [India ]




Green Leaders

Chicago, Illinois

Population > 9.5 million

Leading indicator > Since 1999, the city has planted 2.5 million square feet of heat-reducing rooftop gardens, more than all other USA cities combined

Fast companies > CDW; W.W. Grainger; Chicago Board of Trade

Second to whom? Mayor Richard Daley has overseen a downtown renaissance and the planting of 500,000 new trees. In the wake of a deadly 1995 heat wave, he has also launched a raft of aggressive initiatives to cool the city while conserving energy--and beat New York to an environmental action plan by two years.






Population > 1.7 million

Leading indicator > Europe's least-polluted major city, says Cushman & Wakefield

Fast companies > Ericsson; H&M; clean techies Envac and Fortnum

Home to almost 2,500 green-sector companies and powered by the research output of its Karolinska, Beijer, and IVL institutes, Stockholm is the fuel cell under the hood of a country that aims to be oil-free by 2010. Its Hammarby Sjöstad district is a living eco-laboratory of 4,000 apartments with quadruple-glazed windows, ovens and cookers that run on biogas from wastewater, and central heating wired to photovoltaics.




Portland, Oregon

Population > 2.5 million

Leading indicator > With 125 projects and counting, Portland has the most structures certified by the USA Green Building Council

Fast companies > Nike; Tektronix; Adidas USA; ad firm Wieden+Kennedy

Three decades ago, Portland became a case study on how to stuff sprawl when it enacted strict limits on urban growth. Today, it's at the forefront of the "eat local" revolution, in which individuals and restaurants buy directly from area farmers to preserve livelihoods and open space. With 13 farmer's markets, and nearby world-class vineyards, residents not only buy local but they eat and drink well too.




Vancouver, Canada

Population > 2.1 million

Leading indicator > The world's most livable city, according to a Mercer survey

Fast companies > Electronic Arts; Relic Entertainment; 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Vancouver is home to a booming electronic-gaming industry and a bustling port--not to mention the 2010 Olympics. Its EcoDensity initiative aims to focus that growth by developing more crowded neighborhoods at the city center. The dual goal: to build sustainable neighborhoods with the scale to make green energy technologies affordable and to preserve surrounding forest and mountain ecosystems



Minneapolis , Minnesota

Sacramento , California

Tallahassee , Florida




Culture Centers

Barcelona , Spain

Population > 4.8 million

Leading indicator > Home to 1,500 design studios, among them outposts of Hewlett-Packard , Volvo , and Audi , as well as 18 design schools

Fast companies > B01 Arquitectes; Morillas Brand Design; Smart Design

Paris and Milan may still get more ink, but Barcelona is the style capital of the European continent. Behind the twin towers of Richard Rogers's Hesperia Hotel and Jean Nouvel's Agbar high-rise, the congested district of Eixample is recovering its public spaces, with plans for a park with playgrounds, magnolia trees, benches, and statues within 200 meters of every resident by 2010.



Miami , Florida

Population > 5.5 million

Leading indicator > Five years ago, Miami 's Wynwood Art District didn't exist; today, it boasts nearly 70 galleries and art spaces

Fast companies > Crispin Porter + Bogusky; Bacardi USA.; "tropical modernist" architects Arquitectonica

Art Basel Miami Beach's launch in 2002 thrust the city's contemporary arts scene onto the world stage. Now, world-famous starchitects such as César Pelli (who's designing a new performing arts center) and Herzog & de Meuron (the Miami Art Museum) compete to forge the evolving skyline. Mayor Manny Diaz wants all new buildings 50,000 square feet or more to be silver LEED certified or better.



Dakar , Senegal

Population > 2.5 million

Leading indicator > International Fashion Week, created in 1997 by local couture-preneur Oumou Sy, has become an annual ritual for European fashionistas

Fast companies > Sonatel; Pictoon Animation

As the rest of the country struggles with a nearly 50% unemployment rate, Dakar grows so persistently that government offices are being relocated to the outskirts to alleviate congestion. Home to both a serious intelligentsia and a non-stop outdoor party, the city has its own sound track--mbalax, an irresistible mix of traditional Africa n, Latin, and funk music--and a thriving art scene.


Nashville , Tennessee

Omaha , Nebraska





Global Villages

Toronto , Canada

Population > 5.1 million

Leading indicator > The city counts 100 different ethnic communities; 44% of residents are foreign-born

Fast companies > Nortel ; Four Seasons Hotels; TAXI, the brand builder behind Mini and Viagra

Toronto 's embrace of diversity extends into every corner: There are 29 major film festivals this year, covering nearly every micro-genre. The skyline boasts silhouettes from architects as varied as Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, and Santiago Calatrava. The University of Toronto even offers a drama course titled "Sexual Performance: Case Studies in S&M." More than enough to brighten those cold, gray winters




Johannesburg , South Africa

Population > 3.3 million

Leading indicator > Foreign visitors to South Africa have more than doubled since 1994

Fast companies > Dimension Data; MTN; Investec

South Africa has long been the economic engine of sub-Saharan Africa . Now, Jo-burg is the political and cultural nexus, too, attracting business execs and tourists from across the continent. The attractions: good infrastructure , the world's largest container terminal , and an airport with global connections. The dark side: crime , government bureaucracy , and troubling xenophobia .





Berlin , Germany

Population > 3.4 million

Leading indicator > 14% of Berlin 's population are immigrants, from 180 nations

Fast companies > MTV Europe; IKV++ Technologies; Ronen Kadushin's Open Design

Berlin is broke and unemployment is sky-high--but despite all that, it's turning into the avant-cultural capital of Europe. Talent from all over the world, drawn by reasonable rents, acres of studio space, and a rebellious, daring spirit, is fueling a red-hot design, fashion, and architecture scene, while world-class research centers spin off technology startups.


Boulder , Colorado

Seattle , Washington





High-Tech Hot spots

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Population > 5.1 million

Leading indicator > More than 98% of children complete secondary education

Fast companies > Jabil Circuit; YTL Holdings

Ho Chi Minh City, née Saigon, aspires to be the high-tech center of Southeast [Asia], and GDP growth is projected at 6.5% a year through 2020. Already, its gracious colonial city center has given way to congestion and concrete skyscrapers. Now it's building a whole new city on reclaimed swampland to the south, with broad avenues, gleaming housing developments, and dedicated tech-industry clusters.




Chandigarh, India

Population > 928,000

Leading indicator > The city's technology exports have quadrupled since 2002

Fast companies > Nectar Lifesciences; IBM Daksh

Chandigarh is investing $865 million to build one of India's biggest IT parks, and it'll have no lack of tenants. Attracted by solid infrastructure , a cosmopolitan downtown, and a pool of young, educated workers, technology companies are flocking to this lush city--the nation's wealthiest--in the Himalayan foothills. Coming soon: wireless connectivity for all.



Boise, Idaho

Population > 568,000

Leading indicator > Second-highest tech GDP growth in the USA, says the Milken Institute

Fast companies > Micron; ClickBank

Potatoes? Yeah, Boise has those. But the real action is in online publishing and broadcasting, where employment is up 650% since 2000. wireless telecom is plenty hot too.



Des Moines, Iowa

San Diego, California





Unexpected Oasis

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Population > 1.3 million

Leading indicator > One-fifth of the world's construction cranes are at work in Dubai

Fast companies > Dubai Holding; Emaar Properties; many, many foreign technology and media outfits

google "Dubai" and "world's largest." You'll find listings for the world's largest hotel, shopping mall, airport, aluminum plant, and waterfront development. Part Las Vegas, part Miami , part New York, Dubai aspires to become a juggernaut where capitalism is the one true faith. The downsides: growing traffic, destruction of sensitive ecosystems, and a slap from Human Rights Watch.




Istanbul, Turkey

Population > 9.7 million

Leading indicator > Moody’s recently upgraded its credit rating from speculative

Fast company > Dogan Holding

Thank the Oracle of Delphi for the stunning location. But thank global politics for a modern resurgence: Turkey's long-suffering EU bid has inspired serious reinvestment in infrastructure , including seismic retrofitting and a light-rail line. Plus, a vibrant nightlife, jazz and film festivals, and a growing design community.



Sydney, Australia

Population > 4.3 million

Leading indicator > The world's third favorite city after London and Paris, according to Anholt GMI City Brands Index

Fast companies > Lend Lease; Telstra

Already near the top of most livability surveys, Sydney is focused on becoming carbon-neutral by next year. Its newest precinct, a redevelopment of East Darling Harbour called Barangaroo, is designed to actually supply water and power back to the rest of the city. Danish architect Jan Gehl has been charged with ensuring that an eco-friendly Sydney remains people friendly too.


St Petersburg, Russia





R&D Clusters



Population > 276,000

Leading indicator > Generating patents at the rate of 11.45 a year per 10,000 people, nearly four times the USA city average

Fast companies > LSI; Advanced Energy Industries

A big college town means two things: research and beer. Colorado State University spins out world-class work in realms from bacterial diseases to sustainable energy, feeding a patent stream that's growing by 21% a year. And Fort Collins's six breweries spin out … brew. Synergy alert: New Belgium Brewery has pioneered efficiencies for carbon emissions and water use.


Seoul, South Korea

Population > 9.6 million

Leading indicator > No. 4 patent generator in the world

Fast companies > Samsung Electronics; LG Electronics

Seoul is South Korea's "center of gravity," says think tank Demos. No longer just a hub for copycat technology, the city benefits from terrific basic education, as well as both the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Seoul National University, which together attract most top Korean students. Add in high broadband penetration, research-obsessed industrial chaebol, a new wave of entrepreneurs in their thirties, and an unusually cosmopolitan generation of scientists trained in the USA, and you have a supercity in the making.





Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Population > 1.6 million

Leading indicator > Highest percentage of college grads aged 25 to 34 in the USA

Fast companies > Red Hat; SAS Institute

This region wrote the original recipe for high-tech clusters: Start with careful planning, add a warm business climate, and top with a high quality of life. But don't forget the brains. Three big universities fuel innovation in biotech, pharma, and computer science


Boston, Massachusetts

Rochester, Minnesota

Tokyo, Japan




Urban Innovators

Curitiba, Brazil

Population > 2.9 million

Leading indicator > 45% of residents use extensive bus system

Fast company > América Latina Logística

In the 1960s, Curitiba held a contest to address its rapid growth. The winning plan proposed expansion along easily accessible public-transit corridors--and Jaime Lerner, who helped execute the vision, eventually became mayor. Today, urban planners praise (and, as in LOS ANGELES, mimic) his system. And the city uses 23% less fuel per capita than the rest of Brazil, says the UNITED NATIONS.





Population > 1.1 million

Leading indicator > Youngest urban citizenry in the USA

Fast company > Alzheimer's drugmaker Myriad Genetics

Mayor Rocky Anderson, a liberal anomaly in Utah, is radically redesigning SALT LAKE CITY's downtown. He envisions more green space and the return of City Creek, which now flows under the streets. The goal: a more open, human feel that attracts newcomers--among them traffic-weary Californians--to the city center.



TALLINN, Estonia

Population > 399,000

Leading indicator > 58% of residents use the internet, with the cheapest connection rates in Europe

Fast companies > MicroLink; Skype; Delfi

The capital of Estonia, as it's known, is the most connected city in Europe. There are no internet cafés, because wireless service is everywhere and mostly free. (Universal Net access is actually guaranteed by Parliament.) Wi-Fi is free on commuter trains, and drivers pay parking fees by text message. Cyberattacks may happen, but the place radiates a switched-on vibe--an ease with and saturation of technology, and an abundance of youth.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania




Start-up Hubs

AUSTIN, [Texas]

Population > 1.5 million

Leading indicator > Highest number by far of Wi-Fi hot spots per capita in the USA

Fast companies > Dell Computer; Whole Foods Market

Austin's young population (75% are under 45) fuels a white-hot entertainment industry. The South by Southwest festival draws thousands of media professionals to the "live-music capital of the world" (1,580 bands! 70 venues!) each March, and film production has increased tenfold in a decade. The result: a host of young media and related technology companies, like Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios and Powerhouse Animation Studios.



MADISON, Wisconsin

Population > 543,000

Leading indicator > The University of Wisconsin at Madison spends more on R&D than Stanford, MIT, or Harvard

Fast companies > Promega; Third Wave Technologies; EMD Biosciences

biotech bastion of the breadbasket. The University of Wisconsin employs about 50 stem-cell researchers, has one of the top tech-transfer programs in the nation, and is sinking $150 million in state and private money into its Institutes of Discovery. That has helped seed more than 100 life-sciences firms in surrounding Dane County.




TUSCON, Arizona

Population > 946,000

Leading indicator > Among the top 10 in the USA for job growth and high-tech-industry concentration

Fast companies > Raytheon Missile Systems; UniSource Energy; Universal Avionics

Welcome to "Optics Valley," home to 160 mostly small outfits, such as All Optronics and 4D Technology, focused on optical design and engineering, fiber-optic components, and precision optical fabrication. Life sciences, environmental technologies, and aerospace are booming too. The Arizona Center for innovation is expanding its tech inCubator and is eyeing a second near the University of Arizona.




LONDON, England

Population > 12.6 million

Leading indicator > The London Stock Exchange had the most initial public offerings in the world in 2006

Fast companies > New-media startups OTP Media; MX telecom; Jobpartners

Attracted by light-touch regulation, 91 foreign companies sold new shares on London's exchanges last year--four times the overseas listings in New York. And in the first quarter of this year, IPOs raised 50% more in London than on Nasdaq and the NYSE. Meanwhile, financiers in Mayfair own 26% share of the $1.23 trillion global hedge-fund industry. The downside: absurdly expensive real estate


Ann Arbor, Michigan

Bozeman, Montana

Beijing, China



2005 List of "Fast Cities"


Fast CitiesThey're 15 up-and-coming hubs for creative workers--places that draw people who are talented, tech savvy, and tolerant. Meet the home of your next big opportunity.


Not so long ago, some techies proclaimed that communications technology and the Web would make geography irrelevant. In fact, the opposite is true: Talented people keep congregating in cities because they understand intuitively that working with other talented people spurs them to be even more creative.



For the first time, people aspire--even expect--to do work they love and to live in a community where they can be themselves. At the same time, the world of work has become increasingly temporary and insecure. As a result, talent is shifting to regions that offer dense concentrations of other talented people, tolerance of differences, and a great quality of life. These are the places that lure what Richard Florida , the Hirst Professor at George Mason University's School of Public Policy, calls the "creative class." They're scientists, engineers, artists, cultural creatives, managers, and professionals, who together comprise more than 30% of the total USA workforce and nearly half of the economy's wage and salary income.


The country's epicenters of such talent--San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles--are well-known. To find out which up-and-coming places show the highest rates of creative-class growth--the country's truly fast cities--we drafted Florida and his crack team of data crunchers, led by Kevin Stolarick, assistant professor with the Information Systems Program at Carnegie Mellon University. They identified the seven USA cities with populations between 1 million and 5 million and the three cities between 400,000 and 1 million that have offered the most potent mix of talent, technology, and tolerance in recent years. To top it off, we found a member of the creative class in each emerging city to tell us what's appealing about where they work and live.


Florida , the author of The Rise of the Creative Class (Perseus, 2002) and The Flight of the Creative Class (HarperBusiness, 2005) asserts that for 60 years, the USA had much of the world's talent pool to itself. But now, his research shows that the creative class has gone global. USA cities are competing with Dublin and Helsinki for creatives. And so we also asked Florida to pick five international cities that are winning chunks of the world's talent pool. Maybe one of this new generation of Fast Cities, in the USA or abroad, is the next San Francisco. You won't know until you make it happen.


Sacramento , California

Sandra Gonzalez grew up in a family that picked fruit throughout California. "I got into the wine business by osmosis," she says. But it was during her 10 years working for the Wine Institute, a California trade association, that she came to realize that wineries were doing little to cater to Latino customers. In 2002, she founded Vino con Vida ("wine with life"), a wine-education company, to change that. Gonzalez, 36, has worked with such wineries as Round Hill Vineyards, writes for trade publications, and appears at industry events. She picked Sacramento rather than San Francisco because it's between some of the largest wine-producing regions and because "Sacramento represents a lot of the changing demographics in the country." Living in the state capital also helps her stay attuned to new legislation that could affect the wine industry. And as California goes, so goes the country. As Gonzalez says, "I don't think people realize the impact that Sacramento has on the world."

-Michael A. Prospero


Cornerstones: Between 1999 and 2003, the average annual growth rate of the creative class demographic was 4.3%, one of the highest upticks of our 10 USA cities. The University of California, Davis, in the midst of California's wine region, is a worldwide center for viticulture and food-science research. Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Napa are all within a few hours' drive. Daniel Libeskind is building a condo tower downtown.


Caveats: Plans to revive Sacramento 's downtown entertainment options are admirable but have seen years of false starts.


Phoenix, Arizona

When the New York ad agency that Louie Moses worked for opened a Phoenix office and shipped him out to work there, "it was kind of like being sent to Siberia," he recalls. But within a couple of years, the Pittsburgh native came to like Phoenix's desert sunsets and red-rock mountains, and at the young age of 23, he opened his own ad shop, Moses Anshell, in the Valley of the Sun. "I remember thinking, This is the perfect place for an artist. You can think freely, and you have time to open your mind to new ideas." More than 20 years later, Moses, 45, runs his agency--which expects $69 million in billings in 2005--from a converted 1920s warehouse in Phoenix's revitalized downtown. With clients such as the Arizona tourism board, creative director Moses is helping to tell others what he already knows: Phoenix, now the fifth-largest city in the country, is a lot hotter than Siberia.

-Jena McGregor


Cornerstones: That biotech cluster in the middle of downtown is no mirage. In March, the city opened the Phoenix biomedical Center, a 28-acre campus that already houses both the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the International Genomics Consortium. Phoenix's tourist and convention attractions--Sedona's red rocks are just two hours away, and Scottsdale's galleries, golf courses, and spas are even closer--aren't bad for the locals, either.


Caveats: Metro Phoenix's population, currently 3.5 million, is one of the fastest growing in the country. With nearly 5 million more people expected in the next 25 years, smart planning will be crucial to prevent boom from becoming bust.



A few years ago, Shawn Nelson was driving between two of his funky furniture-design stores in Los Angeles when, in his words, "I went insane on the 405 freeway." The 28-year-old founder and CEO of LoveSac, who had lived in Taiwan and Shanghai (he speaks fluent Mandarin), decided to move back to his hometown of SALT LAKE CITY. It wasn't crazy at all: A large number of former Mormon missionaries, like Nelson, return to Salt Lake, ensuring a steady supply of educated, bilingual workers for his 75-store, $30 million company. That's especially helpful when your manufacturing is in Mexico and your material comes from China. The abundance of four-season outdoor activities at hand--skiing, mountain biking, boating--doesn't hurt, either. Nelson is establishing LoveSac as a "hard-core leisure" brand. That thinking almost certainly endeared him to Sir Richard Branson, helping Nelson win Branson' s reality show, The Rebel Billionaire.



Cornerstones: Between 1997 and 2004, the number of women-owned firms in the metro area increased 36%. The money local VCs have available to invest in the past five years has grown from $75 million to $700 million. The Sundance Film Festival hosts some screenings here each January.


Caveats: lowest tolerance--and therefore the talent it attracts--ranks SLC second lowest of our 10 cities.


San Antonio, Texas

Lea Ann Champion arrived in San Antonio five years ago, and she immediately fell for the Alamo city. Coming from San Francisco, the SBC executive found San Antonio to be affordable, family-friendly, and blessed with a rich Hispanic culture. Those same city selling points helped her recruit top entertainment-industry folks from New York and Los Angeles to Project Lightspeed--SBC's initiative to bring IP-based voice, video, and data to the home--which she heads up as senior executive vice president of IP operations and services. "It's been easy to attract amazing talent," says Champion, who's drawn more than a dozen team members from outside San Antonio. In the five years she's been there, Champion, 47, has watched as San Antonio's economy has diversified away from the military, adding tourism, manufacturing, and high-tech jobs. She expects the SBC-AT&T merger only to add more. "I already see the effects of SBC attracting other companies to locate their key personnel here in this city," she says. "There's truly a pulling effect going on." -JM


Cornerstones: SBC, the Baby Bell about to swallow its mama, AT&T, will become the largest telco when the merger goes through. Artpace is one of the country's most respected contemporary arts residences.


Caveats: San Antonio is diverse, thanks to its Hispanic population, but there's not much melting of the pot going on. Its "integration" measure, which looks at how well ethnic groups are dispersed, is the lowest of our USA cities.



Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

When Ryan Wuerch's Nashville -based software company acquired a small Raleigh, North Carolina, firm last year, he naturally thought he'd move the headquarters of the merged mobile software company to Tennessee . But then his wife reminded him how frustrated he always was at the lack of top-notch tech talent in Nashville and suggested he think about Raleigh. "I knew what a fertile talent region looked like, and that was the exact feeling I had when I went to Raleigh," he says, noting the city's deep educational resources. Since the merger, his company, Motricity, has grown from 46 to almost 300 employees, and in turn is moving from Research Triangle Park to downtown Durham, where it will call home a 100-year-old converted tobacco-factory complex with restaurants, waterfalls, Wi-Fi, and jazz bands. "People want to work in a place where they feel inspired," says Wuerch, 38. "That means not only being in a creative city, but being in an environment where creativity can take on a new shape."



Cornerstones: The area has the highest patent-growth rate (17.5%) of our 10 cities and is home to three prestigious research universities: Duke, UNC, and NC State. It's becoming a hub for medical-device companies. And the biggest job surge between 1999 and 2003 wasn't in computers or medicine but in knowledge professions like education and consulting. The creative-class community--nearly 40% of the population, the highest among all our cities--is fueling downtown renaissances in both Raleigh and Durham.


Caveats: The Triangle's traffic snarls are mounting. A commuter rail system between Raleigh and Durham is coming eventually, but the state recently cut the region's transportation funding by $300 million over the next six years.



San Diego, California

Born and raised in Montreal, Jennifer Luce, 45, started her architecture firm Luce et Studio in San Diego. Why? With the ocean, desert, and mountains all nearby, "there are so many contrasting images," she says, "so to build in that environment is very exciting. It's one of the most diverse landscapes I've ever encountered." Her 15-year-old, eight-person firm has done mostly corporate work, particularly for Nissan, garnering seven architecture awards and $2.3 million in revenue last year. Now Luce wants to do municipal projects, such as helping to redefine San Diego's public spaces. "It's a growing city," she says. "And we're there at the perfect time to help formulate a physical identity for the place."



Cornerstones: Last year, the city pulled in more VC funding than Los Angeles. Per capita, there are more biotech companies here than in any other city in California--something that only stands to increase as the state rolls out its $3 billion stem-cell initiative. Locals have adopted the trendy bars and shops in the revitalized Gaslamp Quarter, prompting city planners to invest in further downtown developments like Petco Park.


Caveats: San Diego isn't cheap; geographic constraints keep property values high in the city. The New York Times branded San Diego "Enron by the Sea" last year after a raft of investigations and financial problems in city government.




Portland, Oregon

Jeffrey Butters sold his Xterra SUV a little over a year ago. "It was senseless driving into downtown Portland," he says of his commute to work that now takes 12 minutes on his bike. A native of Oregon, he and several members of his family founded the Butters Gallery--an international contemporary-art gallery that has showcased everything from gold-leafed cow dung to sophisticated modern sculpture and paintings--in 1988. "Maybe five or six years ago people would've been surprised to find a modern gallery like ours in Portland, but not today." Butters, 42, is an artist as well as a gallery owner and has his own downtown studio for painting. His passion for the city matches his passion for art. "I think we've developed a sense of city pride that revolves around being creative," he says. "The city is a wonderful, vibrant place to be."

-Lucas Conley


Cornerstones: The Pearl District, an 80-year-old warehouse area, has seen more than 50 residential and commercial projects in just over a decade, transforming it into a hip place to live. It's a mix of 19th-century industrial buildings and modern condos and art galleries. Home to the largest wooded city park (Forest Park) in the country, the Portland area is lush with outdoor opportunities.


Caveats: As real-estate prices continue to rise, residents have been fleeing to the suburbs. Big-box stores such as Pier One have been cropping up on the fringes, drawing shoppers from inside the city and stalling development of the downtown shopping district.




Madison, Wisconsin

Brian Vandewalle knows what Madison, Wisconsin, has to offer better than anyone. The founder of an eponymous urban-planning firm, he helped develop "The Healthy City," a report by the Madison mayor's office mapping out a progressive development plan for the community. Recommendations include linking two local assets, bioscience and agriculture; creating more space for the arts; and working with developers to produce live-work neighborhoods. "The idea is to study each of these layers," says Vandewalle, "and try to develop a comprehensive model." It's a model that Vandewalle, 56, thinks will let Madison entice the University of Wisconsin's 41,000 students, nearly 30% of whom are pursuing advanced degrees, to put down roots here.




Cornerstones: A progressive-minded enclave where unemployment is a rock-bottom 2.5% and the creative class continues to expand at an average of 7.8% a year. Madison owes much of its success to the 26,000 people who work in high-tech fields--a number that's growing every year. The vast majority of Wisconsin's recent $750 million biotech initiative will wind up here.


Caveats: Local business owners describe Madison's city council as an "indecipherable bureaucracy " of red tape.




Tucson, Arizona

Dr. Shibin Jiang knew he was in the right place when he moved to Tucson to work at the University of Arizona's Optical Sciences Center in 1996. It was a big change from North Carolina (especially the weather), but the work was too appealing. "We call Tucson 'Optics Valley,' " he says. "If you're an optical engineer, it's the best place in the country to be." By 1998, Jiang, now 40, had cofounded NP Photonics, a company that makes advanced fiber-optical lasers used by the Department of Defense and scientific researchers to monitor conditions deep beneath the sea. As for the weather, it's now one of Jiang's favorite parts of life in the Southwest. "I travel to the DC area a lot, and it'll be snowing and raining and cold," he says. "When I get on the plane back to Tucson, I'm so glad to come home."



Cornerstones: Technology companies have transformed Tucson into the fifth-fastest-growing high-tech community (in terms of goods and services) in the nation. Recreation is also serious business: The city's spas, golf courses, and desert retreats account for more than $1.5 billion in leisure and hospitality spending. Nearly a third of Tucson's 900,000 metro residents were born in Mexico, giving the city significant cultural diversity.


Caveats: The large population of immigrant workers means one in five here still lives in poverty. Urban sprawl is taxing the city's infrastructure ; local authorities have identified some $3 billion in much-needed transportation improvements.




Colorado Springs, Colorado

"Software companies actually exist in Colorado Springs?" That's what new clients of XAware invariably ask its CTO and cofounder, Rohit Mital. He understands their disbelief. His first visit here came as a Columbia University electrical engineering PhD candidate, applying for a job with Hewlett-Packard . He headed back that same day, even though HP had paid for the weekend. But after MCI moved part of its IT force here in 1992, things changed, and Mital founded XAware with a former MCI executive in 1999. "The technical force we needed was available," Mital, 42, says. So was the customer base for this integrator of complex computer systems. The big defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon, were XAware's bread and butter for the first couple of years. Since then, his company has been able to build on the products it developed for those contractors and pitch them to the insurance and financial-services companies it almost exclusively serves today.

-Jennifer Vilaga



Cornerstones: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, the nation's top-three defense contractors, all have offices here, and it's also the home of the Air Force Academy. They're magnets for talent and create opportunities for startups. Residents here enjoy 300 sunny days a year. The 14,110-foot Pikes Peak acts as a scenic backdrop.


Caveats: The reliance on the military means a pinch on the local economy whenever troops ship out. This largely Christian conservative city's hints at low tolerance





Too-fast Cities


Cairo, Egypt

The push for democracy has stalled, and corruption is as rife as ever. No wonder so many Egyptian entrepreneurs are looking elsewhere for opportunities.



Almaty, Kazakhstan

There's new construction everywhere. There's also crime , corruption, and nuclear waste. Culture? Uh, no.


Greenwich, Connecticut

A luxe enclave of superrich hedge funds. But one meltdown and this party's over.


Las Vegas, Nevada

An environmental pileup in the making. Can the casinos find enough water to fill all those pools?


Shenzhen, China

Think Las Vegas, except in China. Home prices have doubled in four years.




Too -slow cities


Budapest, Hungary

Breathtakingly romantic--but its economy is broken. Among the world's 150 biggest cities, last in predicted GDP growth, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.


St Louis, Missouri

Too normal for its own good. It ranks dead last on CityVitals' "Weirdness Index," a measure of passion and engagement.


New Orleans, Louisiana

We wish it weren't so. But NOLA was slow before Katrina. The cleanup debacle has only reinforced that reality.


Detroit, Michigan

Last one out, shut off the manufacturing line. Tragically, inevitably bound to the USA auto industry's failings.


Havana, Cuba

Celebrating a half-century of economic decay. Thanks, Fidel. Seemingly no cars on the road made after 1968.









Other cities reviewed


Greenville, South Carolina

A quiet powerhouse with a strong city government that knows how to manage growth. BMW, Fluor, and many other successful companies call this area home. Less than one hour from the "Best City" overall (Forbes) -- Asheville, North Carolina... The Peace Center is only one downtown theater venue, but it's the one that gets all the same Broadway productions I was used to seeing in Detroit, Chicago and Toronto . The education system is ranking well, and with Furman, Clemson and (oh, okay, we'll say it...) Bob Jones, the collegiate attitude thrives. Greenville Technical College provides opportunities for those not university-bound. We just moved here from (ahem) Detroit. It's another world.




Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is not only hot in the summer - it's hot year-round: Young urbans, creative culturists, thoughtful multiracials, multinational businesses, start-up thinkers,and thriving dot.com baby boomers who are generating new ideas, new capital, new opportunites. Atlanta's old tagline of "a city too busy too hate" takes on a more modern formulation - "a city too innovative to wait." One of the smartest mayors in the country, city leaders who strive to improve clogged traffic, and a racially diverse population that demands change and speed. And if you haven't seen the city in person, it is far greener, far hillier, and far more enticing than the slower among us can imagine. Private enterprise, private schools, and private hope for the future make Atlanta a metropolitan area that won't slow down.

- just ranked 1.0 out of 5 for fast city by readers





Helsinki, Finland

Absolutely the capital of mobility and design.




Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, the State Capital and 15th largest US city is quickly growing up as a hip, urban oasis of highly educated young professionals, entrepreneurs and artists. With steady growth, employment and a revitalizing downtown, expect to see more in the near future.



It is home to more than 150 nationalities, its architecture is modern and aggressive, it is the Latin America's financial center, has an innovative cuisine and last, but not least, headquarters the largest companies in the region as well as it is the main repository for arts in the country. Problems: violence and poverty. But these factors are not restraining the city's potential.



Frankfurt is in the heart of Europe. It is Europes bank capital incl. the European central bank, (ECB), has one of the biggest Airport Hubs in Europe, one of the biggest train and car hubs in Europe, a huge number of advertising agencies, very small (pop 680.000) and therefor very easy to navigate, a great backcountry with the Taunus and the Rheingau. A big art scene with a large number of Museums, it is very international, very safe (statistics gest blown up by Airport)



Great education, family values, sprouting urban development, lifestyles and entertainment. Des Moines has it all for young professionals.



Pune is a fast developing city in India, with lot of IT companies opting to set up their operations in the city. Microsoft has announced, in the last week only, to set up its own IT park in this city. This city is known as educational hub in [India ]for decades and had a strong manufacturing base, especially in automotives. The skilled and educated workforce, viscinity of Financial Capital-Mumbai has worked miracles for Pune. This is the city to watch for!!! PS - Sorry, I have entered wrong state, because I was not allowed to submit entry with state as "OTHER". The state for Pune is Maharashtra in India


Boulder , Colorado

Boulder is small enough (around 100,000) that it feels like a small town. But it has big city resources (either here or in Denver) and it's a place where exciting people stop by to visit, lecture, perform, etc. We're a lifestyle town -- creative types, athletes, entrepreneurs, green/organic types. People want to live here. Real estate is higher than it is in other parts of Colorado, but you make compromises to be here. I live in a studio apartment, but I own it outright and I live within walking distance of the University of Colorado, all the shopping I would ever need to do, multiple coffee house/third places, and even the local night life. I don't even need a car (though I have one) because there are bike paths and public transportation to get me everywhere.


Perth, Australia

A city on the verge... The mining hub of Australia reinventing itself by its creative credentials. Modern transport system with hydrogen buses undergoing trial. Unprecedented investment in infrastructure projects including the sinking of the rail line to join the cultural and business centres of the city, redevelopment of the foreshore, and pioneering urban village developments in East Perth and Subiaco. Host of edgy new retailers and bars developing in the past 3-5 years. Urban innovation projects including: www.form.net.au parklifePerth.blogspot.com



Singapore. The name alone connotes contradiction. Top-down, socially-engineered, conservative, yet acknowledged as one of the hippest, funkiest and economically vibrant cities in Asia. Everything works the way it should work, and the livin' is easy. It's got to be experienced to be believed. An island state that has been described by observers as "The most forward looking country in the world", "an empire of the mind", and in a folk song, "Singapura, Oh Singapura, Sunny Island, Set in the Sea". Leader in electronic road pricing, RFID tagged public library system, and Durian-shaped arts centre called the Esplanade. Multiethnic food paradise, cosmopolitan Biopolis, chemical hub called Jurong Island, and home to 15 wafer fabrication plants. Frequently rated the best workforce in the world and most competitive Asian city in the world by various agencies. Population: 4.48 million. International flights: Singapore's Changi Airport is served by 80 airlines with over 4,000 flights a week to 180 cities in 57 countries. crime : murders, 17 (2006, all solved); domestic break-ins, 1,123. Sunshine: annual average, 2,034 hours. Temperatures: the average temperature rarely fluctuates from the 30C mark with slight dips during the monsoons from late November to January. Wired: it's near impossible to find a place in Singapore that's not wired. Mobile coverage is excellent, even on the underground. Tolerance: a policy of social and racial integration has resulted in a society that's remarkably harmonious.


Singapore just recently garnered the title of having the "world's fastest walkers", clocking in 10.55 seconds per 18 metres. If that is not an indication of our city's fast-paced culture, then I don't know what is. We're constantly on the hurry, hurry, hurry and taking time out verges on being cardinal sin. We thrive on competition, on being the first in everything (despite being an extremely tiny country and stress is the order of the day, everyday. Sounds like hell? Not really, we make up for it in other ways. Visit the city and you'll know. Practically every industry is burgeoning, and with a robust economy and bullish prospects on the business frontier, Singapore is the next kid on the block. I am in terrible dismay that Singapore is not on the list.






Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Melbourne is widely regarded in Australia is being the creative hub over Sydney. Sydney is fast and flashy with lots of bank headquarters and beaches, Melbourne has more intellectual depth and sophistication, high tech start ups, creative industries, great music scene and fantastic cultural and educational infrastructure . That said, I'm not sure why Sydney or Melbourne would ever be classed as unexpected oases since they compare well with many of the cities on your list based on my travels.



Cosmopolitan, multicultural and bilingual, Montréal is blessed with a unique personality that hails from a wonderful blend of European and New World charms. Its intellectual and cultural vitality, its ultra-modern infrastructure s, its high technology and its nearness to major cities in the USA all combine to make Greater Montréal a hub for international trade.


Lincoln is fast becoming a biotech hub, especially in the ag and animal industry. biotech operations here include Novartis OTC research and manufacturing plant employing 600, Pfizer animal vaccine plant employing 600-700, MDS Pharma testing facility employing several hundred. Lincoln is also home to several small startups that have developed significant products such as Geneseek and Nature Technology.


A neighbor of Boulder and just down the road from Ft. Collins the entrepreneurial spirit thrives in Broomfield. With companies like Level-3 Communications, Sun Microsystems, and IBM (Whom have large operations centers in Broomfield) it is a hotbed of technology with former employees of the above mentioned giants leaving to create their own companies. Broomfield has much of the same benefits that Boulder and Ft. Collins are known for such as amazing view of the Rocky Mountain foothills and many cultural amenities. The only noticeable downside would be over-development.


Huntsville is the fastest growing technology center in the Southeast and has the highest concentration of engineers in the country. It also has a wealth of natural resources that translate into multiple recreational opportunities, and our arts and music scene is comparable to those of much larger cities. We are experiencing a lot of growth that is moving us more into the urban realm, but we are maintaining short commutes and high quality of life. Recognized by Kiplinger's as one of the top five locations for mid-career professionals, we also got high marks for young professionals and "empty nesters." I've lived in some of the Fast Cities and wouldn't go back. I've got the best of both worlds here.


The fusion of cultures, education, lifestyles and happenstance of the katrina event has made Baton Rouge a melting pot of energy and opportunity. It is the midpoint between Houston and the gulf coast. The access to New Orleans, the access to the mississippi gulf coast makes it a natural launch point for anything having to do with the renissance of the gulf coast rim.



 Reno, Nevada

Reno is Artown (renoisartown.com) Reno Whitewater Park (reno river festival) Lake Tahoe Pyramid Lake 3.5 hrs drive to SF / .45 minute flight Burning Man University of Nevada, Reno


Los Angeles is considered the creative capital of the world. The city has the biggest pull in US when it comes to creativity.



Incredible job growth in last 20 years, technology-based economy, huge number of foreign- and minority-owned companies, close to federal market and culture of Washington DC, great public school system.


Waterloo with RIM(Blackberry) is the location of global importance. Many different nationalities, live, study and visit. Also they host a summer school for International high school students to study modern Physics at Perimeter Institute. Definitely on the top of a list of Global Villages .


For all of it's failures, New Orleans remains on the top of cultural meccas in the USA if not the world. A city brimming with the visual and performing arts to old style jazz to avant garde music. The bohemia of this city is more active than it ever was pre Katrina. And for those willing to take a chance, jobs abound, and one need not look far to make your mark



Lots of opportunity for engineering in the chemical industry, large arts community, one of the most economical places to buy a house.


Home to Florida State University, Florida A&M University and a thriving community college, Tallahassee has a highly educated workforce, sound infrastructure , a young population, educational institutions with top research facilities and numerous experts and resources in nearly all major business categories. Tallahassee is among the top 50 cities in the USA for business relocation according to Expansion Management magazine, a trade magazine for businesses seeking new locations. Moody’s Economy.com, a leading national business website ranked Tallahassee 35 out of 379 cities included in its Business Vitality Index that ranks economic vitality of a metro area.


 Spokane, Washington **

Spokane, WA is a wonderful city at the center of a huge region that in many ways is very similar to Boise, ID. Spokane is in Eastern Washington and has several colleges within 100 miles of it, including Gonzaga University, Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, Whitworth University, and North Idaho College. It is the 2nd largest city in Washington State (behind Seattle ) and it outpaced it's counterparts on the west side of the state both in job growth and population growth. It has a wonderful quality of life with many parks, hiking and biking trails, skiing and wonderful lakes close by for boating. There has been a huge investment and revitalization of downtown Spokane with more than $1 billion dollars flowing into downtown in the last few years. We are set to begin construction on a world class white-water rafting park in the cities core just to the west of one of the largest urban waterfalls in the world. Also, ground was just broken on a huge project on the north side of the Spokane River overlooking the falls that will provide 2600 living units and 1,000,000 square feet of office and retail space. We have a hot real estate market despite the national trends an exciting night life that has recently begun to take shape. We just made #20 on the 2007 Forbes List of Best Cities for Business and Careers. I am a young professional and have discovered that there are many like me in this town. Huge oppoturnities here and wonderful growth. Please don't pass us up! Come and visit! Thanks for your time.....


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