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Durham, N.C.
Durham, N.C.
Once a robust tobacco town, Durham's economic outlook began to decline as people started smoking less. At the height of its popularity in 1947, local companies produced 50 million pounds of tobacco; in 1986, the number decreased to just 4 million.

To fill the void, the city, along with its neighbors Raleigh and Chapel Hill, established Research Triangle Park, a commercial complex that now houses more than 130 tech and healthcare businesses. Nearby universities share resources and provide a highly educated workforce. Downtown Durham boasts a growing entertainment district. The historic American Tobacco factory, which closed in 1987, has been converted into luxury housing, restaurants, and retail stores, sandwiched between a new performing arts center and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

NEXT: Winston-Salem, N.C.

Last updated March 26 2008: 3:40 PM ET