Forbes crunched the numbers on every metro area to figure who has the best and worst business climates. The result is our 16th annual look at the Best Places for Business and Careers.
Raleigh, N.C., ranks first this year, moving up from third in 2013. The North Carolina capital previously ranked first in 2011 and had a three-year run in the top spot from 2007 to 2009. It is the only East Coast city that made the top 10.
Fueling Raleigh’s consistent results are business costs that are 18% below the national average, and an adult population where 42% have a college degree, the 12th best rate in the U.S. (30% is the national average). Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University and nearby schools include Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The area’s appeal has led to a strong inflow of new residents to the city, which boasts the sixth fastest net migration rate over the past five years.
Research Triangle Park continues to fuel significant development in the area. The park is located at the core of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Area, and it is the largest research park in the country. It features roughly 170 companies that employ 39,000 full-time, mostly high-tech workers. There have been 1,800 start-up companies created at RTP since 1970.
Networking giant Cisco Systems CSCO -0.29% announced plans last month to add 550 jobs in RTP by the end of 2017, in addition to the 4,600 already in the area. “By expanding our presence and hiring the best talent, we will continue developing technology solutions that will enable the Internet of Everything and fuel innovation here in RTP,” said Cisco President Gary Moore in a statement announcing the news. Other top employers in the park include IBM IBM +0.35%, GlaxoSmithKline , Fidelity Investments , Biogen Idec BIIB +0.49%, Credit Suisse and BASF .
Raleigh also prospers from small businesses facing low regulatory hurdles compared to other cities. Projected annual job growth for the Raleigh area is 3.7% through 2016, which ranks seventh best among the 200 biggest metro areas (see “Naples, Austin Head List Of Best Cities For Job Growth”).