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Being in business used to mean being tied to a big city, where all the resources and customers you needed were right at your fingertips. But nowadays, thanks to a move toward a more service- and technology-based economy -- and a slew of new computing and telecommunication innovations -- entrepreneurial enterprises are no longer chained to the same handful of overcrowded metropolitan areas.

Quite literally, the sky is fast becoming one of the only remaining limits on small-business locations. Spots that were previously written off as being too small, too remote, too rural, or too touristy are now attracting an increasing number of entrepreneurs. Smart cities and towns have found success by marketing their high quality of life, low costs, and growing stockpile of business resources.

OFF YOUR RADAR? All that makes choosing the so-called "best" entrepreneurial cities a more difficult, and somewhat more arbitrary task, since site selection now depends as much on, say, proximity to hiking trails as it does on traditional factors like tax incentives and cheap office space.

If you could do business anywhere, where would you go? Aiming to help you answer that question, we set out to find unique and innovative cities that best encapsulate the trends luring entrepreneurs today. From the college town and the spunky "micropolitan" to the resource magnet and the comeback kid, some, or even all, of the cities profiled here may not have registered on your radar -- and that's precisely the point.

Thursday: A conversation with Jack Schultz, author of Boomtown USA

Friday: A look at one thriving company and where it's choosing to expand. Plus: a slide show spotlighting some of the nation's most innovative small-business cities.


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