15. Wake County, NC
Wake County, NC
Towns include: Apex, Garner, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Raleigh, Wake Forest
Job growth (2000-2010): 35.9%

You can't stop the jobs machine in Wake County. The local economic development council reports almost a thousand new positions since March. And green jobs represent one of the fastest-growing sectors. An industry report shows a 22% spike in 2010 across the state. Wake County leads the way with 128 green companies.

The hub of it all is Research Triangle Park, with more than 170 firms that employ about 48,000 workers there. Its tenant list reads like a Who's Who of global business: IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, Cisco Systems and DuPont are just some of the bigger names.

Not only does Wake County attract business, it wants to keep it there. When Red Hat hinted it might move its headquarters out of Raleigh, the state ponied up $18 million in grants. The Linux software developer now says it will stay put and create 540 jobs over the next decade.

Last updated August 19 2011: 7:00 PM ET
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These terrific small towns -- even now -- boast great job opportunities, top-notch schools, safe streets, economic strength, and more.

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