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91. Ames, Iowa
Population: 51,681
Pro: Academic environment in a charming small town
Con: Ames has to endure comparisons to Iowa City

For a small Midwestern railroad town, half of whose residents are students at Iowa State, Ames gets more than its share of national recognition. It's the home of the Ames Laboratory, an historic and still-thriving research arm of the Department of Energy; the National Animal Disease Center, the U.S. testing center for mad-cow disease; and the Ames Straw Poll, an important August event in the Republication Party's presidential-nomination process.

As in other college towns, small businesses in Ames service the students or tend toward science and research, reflecting the strengths of the university. ISU hosts the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, which connects faculty, researchers, and students to the entrepreneurial world and assists the business community in accessing the resources of the university. Ames' local manufacturers include 3M, pastamaker Barilla, and Ball Corp., which makes beverage containers. -Elizabeth Bland

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Last updated July 02 2008: 11:16 AM ET
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