Entrepreneurial zeal runs strong in Orlando: A "loan day" event last year bringing borrowers and lenders together spawned 39 business loans totaling $750,000. Greater Orlando is relatively insulated from Florida's real-estate crash. It has a broad mix of financial services and manufacturing companies, along with businesses catering to the 40 million tourists a year who throng to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and other area theme-park attractions.
NASA's nearby Kennedy Space Center is a linchpin of the small-biz ecosystem. Other active players in cultivating startups include the University of Central Florida and the Disney Entrepreneur Center, a public-private collaboration offering counseling and other services. Orlando's thriving tourism business brings residents a wealth of local amenities - though it also represents an Achilles' Heel. If gas prices keep skyrocketing and the economy remains shaky, Orlando's economy is likely to suffer from the tremors. -Peter Galuszka