For job seekers, these 15 small cities offer great opportunity. We considered places with lower-than-average unemployment and positive past job and population growth. Then, we ranked the cities by projected job growth.
POPULATION: 87,578 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 10% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 18.4%
Life in Sugar Land is sweet indeed. Unemployment is a mere 4.2%, due not just to the town’s proximity to Houston, 20 miles northeast, but also to a vibrant local job market anchored by offices of Fluor and Schlumberger and the headquarters of Minute Maid and Fortune 500 company CVR Energy. When not in the office, the town’s mostly white-collar, mostly university-educated citizens head to the town square or local country clubs, enjoy three public libraries, take in minor league baseball games at a two-year-old stadium, and shop at nearby First Colony Mall.
POPULATION: 70,346 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 10% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 18.1%
This small city, located 20 miles northwest of Dallas, has been growing rapidly since the nearby Dallas-Fort Worth airport opened in the 1970s. Flower Mound has benefited from the booming economy in this part of Texas, and seen its population roughly quadruple between 1990 and 2010. Typical weekend activities here include golfing, horseback riding, and biking the area’s 43-mile network of trails.
POPULATION: 83,897 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 8% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 17.1%
Two decades ago, Carmel, no. 3 on our Best Places to Live list, seemed destined to follow the typical suburban script of sprawl and strip malls. Then an aggressive development plan sent Carmel down a different path, marked by a revitalized downtown, world-class performing arts venues, traffic-friendly roundabouts, and high-paying jobs. More than just a bustling bedroom community, Carmel is now home to more than 50 corporate headquarters, including financial services giant CNO Financial Group, Delta Faucet, and Monster.com. In fact, the city has the state’s largest concentration of office workers outside of Indianapolis. One notable newcomer, American Specialty Health Incorporated, made a cross-country move to Carmel last summer, all the way from San Diego. The upshot: Moody’s is forecasting double-digit job growth for the county over the next five years.
POPULATION: 90,408 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 10% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 14.5%
In a town where the high school team recently won back-to-back state championships, football is king. But residents of this Dallas suburb can also celebrate an extraordinary local job market anchored by in-town offices of Experian and Frontier Communications and, in the adjoining town of Plano, the headquarters of both JC Penney and Frito-Lay. Stroll through one of the town’s outdoor shopping centers and you’ll find a village park known as The Green, along with big-name retail and restaurants.
POPULATION: 103,322 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 8% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 12.7%
This Denver suburb was designed in 1978 by the Mission Viejo Company, based on the firm’s earlier planned community on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The community has expanded dramatically since then, causing some growing pains—including frequent traffic and congestion between Highlands Ranch and Denver, where many residents work. These days, though, it’s getting easier to find a job right in town; recent arrivals in Highlands Ranch include UDR, a real estate trust, and ARCADIS-USA, an infrastructure company.
POPULATION: 67,223 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 7% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 11.9%
Franklin earned a spot on the overall Best Places list thanks to its strong schools, adorable downtown, and abundant opportunities for celebrity-spotting. But it’s also a great place to launch a career. Community Health Systems and Nissan are the big corporate employers here. Franklin’s proximity to Nashville, a country music mecca, offers professional opportunities to artsy types as well. Local hotspot The Factory is a hub for hipster businesses, and more than 400 entertainment jobs are based right in town. That creative vibe can found after work, too, with events like a monthly art gallery crawl and intimate concerts at Puckett’s Grocery in nearby Leiper’s Fork.
POPULATION: 66,514 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 10% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 11.9%
Bossier City is located in the northwest corner of Louisiana, across the Red River from sister-city Shreveport. The city is a modern-day Southern river town, complete with four riverboat casinos, outlet shopping, and a 14-screen movie theatre. Bossier City is a great spot for regional foodies, with plenty of unique Cajun-style cuisine and Southern barbecue to be had. The big industries here are tourism and recreational gaming, though there are also many military jobs in the area.
POPULATION: 65,080 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 3% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 11.4%
Stable public-service jobs are big in the capital of the roughrider state. But much of the recent job growth in Bismark can be credited to the boom in manufacturing and energy. Knife River, Dakota Gasification, and Hedahls Auto Plus are all headquartered here. Bismarck rates high on the livability scale, especially for those with kids. Families can cruise in the Lewis Clark Riverboat, visit the state’s only science center, and shop at any of four seasonal farmers markets in town.
POPULATION: 144,399 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 8% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 11.3%
Located near the center of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Cary offers easy access to a stunning range of high-paying job opportunities. Raleigh, the state capitol, borders Cary to the south, while tech hub Research Triangle Park is just up the road. Medical research centers at Duke and the University of North Carolina are less than 20 minutes away. Then there’s SAS Institute, one of the world’s largest software makers, which is headquartered in town. Not enough options? Insurance giant Met Life will relocate its IT center, along with 1,000 jobs, to Cary next year.
POPULATION: 53,475 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 9% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 10.4%
Offutt Air Force Base dominates the economy of Bellevue, Nebraska’s oldest city and no. 34 on our Best Places to Live list. Some 10,000 people work at the facility, and it’s the reason defense contractors Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin together employ another 800 or so in the city. But while Bellevue’s job growth is strong, the local restaurant and entertainment options leave something to be desired. Fortunately, the trendy bars and eateries of Omaha’s Old Market District are less than 15 minutes away.
POPULATION: 78,080 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 10% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 10.4%
St. George, also no. 47 on our Best Places list, is growing quickly: Some 15,000 residents have arrived in the past ten years alone. And job opportunities are growing too. Unemployment has gone from over 10% in 2009 to just 4.2% this June, thanks in part to the recent arrival of Walmart and Family Dollar distribution centers. Tourism, driven by the city’s proximity to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park, also contributes significantly to the local economy.
POPULATION: 51,301 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 7% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 10.3%
You might not expect to see such stellar employment stats in a quiet city located in heart of Washington State wine country. Richland however, is an unusual place. Famous for its role in the Manhattan Project, the city’s Hanford Site was a center of military activity during the Cold War. It’s now home to a commercial nuclear station, as well as a major cleanup of a contaminated nuclear zone—a project that includes thousands of workers contracted out by the US Department of Energy. Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the region’s top employer.
POPULATION: 71,786 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 9% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 10.3%
Dale City is located in Prince William County, a Virginia country known for creating public-private partnerships that bring high-skill jobs to the area. One such project: the Simulation and Game Institute, a tech development center that the county established with George Mason University and industry donors like Carney Labs. Prince William County also owns and operates nine “wet labs,” designed for biological and chemical experiments, which are available for commercial use.
The city is well-situated for folks who work in Washington, D.C., about 30 miles away. Of course, this part of Northern Virginia is known for its congestion, so that drive might take a while: Nearly half of Dale City residents spend more than 45 minutes commuting each day.
POPULATION: 59,622 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 6% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 10.1%
West Des Moines’ stable economy and well-educated residents have brought a number of large firms to the area. Wells Fargo, Hy-Vee, and Athene USA are the biggest job creators in the city proper, while Principal Financial Group, EMC Insurance, and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield are just down the road in Des Moines. This strong economic base has also helped keep the city’s housing market on track: prices stayed relatively stable during the recession and have been trending upward ever since.
POPULATION: 68,901 JOB GROWTH SINCE 2010: 12% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH THROUGH 2018: 10%
This South Florida city, located on the edge of the Everglades, is relatively young: it was officially founded in 1996. Large Venezuelan and Colombian populations distinguish Weston from nearby towns, but what has really drawn folks to this community are the jobs. Ultimate Software is headquartered here, and Cleveland Clinic and Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center have brought health care jobs to the area. Proximity to Fort Lauderdale and Miami means commuters also have plenty of options.
Note: We eliminated places with an unemployment rate higher than the national average for June 2014, places with negative or flat employment growth between 2010 and 2013, and places with negative or flat population growth. Then, we ranked by 2013 to 2018 projected job growth. The list was limited to three places per state, one per county.