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56. Winston-Salem, N.C
Population: 195,821
Pros: Growing biotech sector, business-friendly tax structure, budding art scene
Con: A dearth of local investors

A decline in major industries and having once been dubbed one of the "worst places for singles" (by Forbes, in 2001) might slow some cities down, but not this central Carolina town. Rolling with the changing times, Winston-Salem has shifted its economic focus from tobacco, textiles, and furniture to biotech, supply-chain logistics and product distribution.

Entrepreneurship in these areas is fostered through organizations such as the Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network, the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce's Technology Council, and the city's small-business loan programs. Like its higher-profile neighbor to the East, the Raleigh-Durham region, Winston-Salem has its own research park, which houses tech-based start-ups in six buildings and has ambitious expansion plans. Wake Forest University helps fuel local medical and tech innovation.

Like its business climate, Winston-Salem's social reputation has undergone a change. The city has worked hard over the past 10 years to improve the quality of life it offers, largely by broadening and better promoting its culinary and arts scenes. Music venues and galleries are scattered throughout the city, and annual theatre and film festivals keep arts mavens happy. Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of the city's hiking trails or tour the wineries and vineyards in nearby Yadkin Valley wine country. -Brandi Stewart

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Last updated July 02 2008: 11:16 AM ET
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