The second largest city in New England, Worcester is a mere 45 miles west of Boston. While some rough parts of town still reflect its industrial past, Worcester has revitalized itself with new industries, such as biotech and alternative energy. The 111 biotech companies here have access to an educated population (the area boasts 15 colleges and universities), as well as a municipal government dedicated to promoting local businesses. In addition to state-level research and development and job-creation incentives, the area boasts the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Venture Forum, which fosters networking between tech startups and venture capitalists to help promote potential partnerships.
Worcester's Mechanics Hall plays host to internationally acclaimed musicians, who frequently stop by on their way to play in Boston. Local officials are in the midst of a major downtown redesign, which includes a $30-million renovation of the Hanover Center for the Performing Arts. -Peter McDougall