No. 10. Eden Prairie, Minn.
This home of the 'silicon prairie,' this town ranks tenth on this year's list of Great American Towns
(MONEY Magazine) -- Established on May 11, 1858, the same day Minnesota joined team U.S.A., onetime cow town Eden Prairie is now a hot spot for businesses and families. Twenty miles southwest of Minneapolis, it has long been home to the families of Twin City sports pros and Fortune 500 execs.
Up until 2000 it was the corporate home for electronics retailer Best Buy. When the company unexpectedly decided to move, Eden Prairie business leaders, including the CEO's of several mid-size tech firms, responded by forming Silicon Prairie, a group whose mission was to grow the town's tech industry. It worked. The employment base grew by more than 7% over the next five years, and today there are 2,200 businesses (many of them tech-related small concerns) in town.
"There's none of that East/West Coast traditionalism, and industry is just taking off," says Rich Mueller, 59, a small business consultant who moved from Los Angeles in 2002. "Here, there's a delightful change of pace." The green ain't bad either: The city sets aside 45% of its space for gardens and parks, and the scenery includes 16 lakes and miles of bluffs overlooking the Minnesota River Valley.
Residents are educated - the number of people 25 and older who hold a bachelor's degree is more than twice the national average - and the school district regularly outperforms on state assessment tests. The downside? Winter is long, and road maintenance can be a drag in summer. Plus the six-mile-by-six-mile city doesn't have a real downtown.
Eden Prairie has found other ways to keep the community connected, however. Students attend one public high school to discourage rivalry, and neighborhoods are connected by 170 miles of trails. This being a tech-savvy place, connections are virtual too. The fire and police chiefs and city manager Scott Neal all keep Weblogs. One recent story: Eight-year-old Tucker Zangs raised $1,500 to rebuild a playground slide in town. Garrison Keillor has it right. Those Minnesota children are above average.