Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

40 of 100
40. Olympia, Wash.
Population: 46,605
Metro hub: Olympia, Wash.
Pros: Northwestern scenery, supportive tax structure
Con: High cost of living

The top employers in Washington's capital city are all public: the state, the city government, and Providence St. Peter's Hospital. But Michael Cade, the executive director of the city's economic development council, says the talent pool of state workers breeds small-business activity: "They're government employees by day, and entrepreneurs by night."

Local businesses benefit from the city's strategic location between Seattle and Portland, the absence of a personal or corporate income tax, and Thurston County's tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment.

Cade says that plastics and machinery manufacturing are dominant industries, but the city is attracting more high technology, offering tax breaks such as credits of up to $2 million for research and development. Tourism is also on the rise: In addition to an incoming branch of the big hunting outfitter, Cabela, Olympia has waterfront retail and restaurants, and abundant parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The beautiful surroundings encourage environmentalist leanings and healthy living. -Mina Kimes

Interactive map: Olympia, Wash.
Homes for sale Find homes for sale in Olympia, Wash.

NEXT: 41. Asheville, N.C.

Last updated July 02 2008: 11:16 AM ET
More Galleries
5 startups that are reimagining the world Bricks that grow from microorganisms, household garbage turned into art, three-wheeled bike-cars -- these startups are redefining urban living. More
Blue collar entrepreneurs These five entrepreneurs took their blue collar experience and used it to launch innovative businesses. More
7 lifehacks to eliminate your holiday hassle Whether curating the perfect gift or finding a pet-sitter, these startups offer time-saving services that might just seem like holiday magic. More

Special Offer