WINNERTop 100 rank: 9
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Unemployment at 4.3%? That's not a misprint: Ames is the home of Iowa State University, which employs 9,000, and there are lots of biotech and agriculture jobs nearby. Like many states, Iowa has trimmed university funding, but the school has not had to make drastic cuts.Subscribe to Money Magazine
If the people who live here get bored, they have only themselves to blame. Besides Iowa State's cultural and athletic offerings, Ames boasts 36 parks, a bustling shopping district, and a new aquatic center.
Sports are big in this town: The high school boys basketball team, girls tennis team, and girls golf team are state champions. But the friendliness of the community is what newcomers tend to remark upon most.
Says Craig McFarland, 55, a financial adviser who moved here with his family in 2006: "Our first day, a neighbor came over with cookies." --Anne Lee
Is Ames a great town, or what?
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