Metropolitan-area population: 1.6 million
Who's hiring now: Bank of America, Wachovia, life-science startups at the North Carolina Research Campus
Hottest jobs: IT project manager ($83,000), senior software developer ($82,900), regional sales manager ($80,500), senior financial analyst ($72,900), construction project manager ($71,200)
Sorry, Atlanta. These days no one disputes Charlotte's standing as the true financial center of the South. The $2.1 trillion in assets that local financial services giants Bank of America and Wachovia pulled in last year made Charlotte a close second to New York City as America's financial capital. Thanks in part to its big banks, the region's total business investment--a powerful driver of jobs--nearly tripled in '06, hitting $4.1 billion and adding 12,000 jobs to Charlotte and 20,000 to the region overall.
Charlotte may soon become an important new biotechnology hub. David Murdock, a venture capitalist and the chairman of Dole Food, is building a $1.5 billion biotech complex in nearby Kannapolis that could generate more than 14,000 jobs. Scientists from the state's top universities are already trickling into the 350-acre North Carolina Research Campus, which is expected to be completed in 2011.
Sources: Conference Board, Global Insight, Moody's Economy.com, PayScale, and Radford Surveys & Consulting.