Profile: Raleigh, North Carolina
Population: 385,000 (city), 1.55 million (Research Triangle Region)
USDA Hardiness Zone: 7
Major Airports: Raleigh-Durham International Airport
Companies With a Major Presence: Progress Energy, RBC Bank, WakeMed, Red Hat
(Research Triangle -- IBM, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, Sony Ericsson, SAS, Lenovo, Red Hat, GlaxoSmithKline, Biogen Idec, Credit Suisse, Fidelity Investments, NetApp)
Founded in 1792 as the capital of North Carolina, Raleigh was born by politics and its lifeblood is state government. Home to N.C. State University, the city has evolved into a center for technological innovation ever since the creation of the nearby Research Triangle Park in 1959. It is one of the country's fastest-growing cities, popular for its mild climate, low cost of living, easy pace and friendly demeanor. Its evolving downtown -- home to companies such as Progress Energy and RBC Bank -- provides a tiny contrast to the sprawling, suburban shell that has absorbed its newcomers in recent decades.