Once most famous as Bruce Springsteen's hometown, the Boss' turf is coming into its own. This coastal strip of central Jersey has emerged as a hip place for start-ups. A quiet lifestyle and location just 90 minutes from New York City draw companies like AT&T, Lucent and Xpedite (a broadcast fax pioneer) to set up shop.
Alyson Miller-Greenfield, assistant state director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center, gives local insight.
Why it's hot: "High quality of life and good schools have made this the state's fastest-growing area," Miller-Greenfield says, adding that many people move here while still employed elsewhere, but tire of the commute and "transition from commuter to entrepreneur."
What's not so hot: "High energy costs and high costs of living," says Miller-Greenfield.
Hot networking spots: Networking happens in offices, at the New Jersey Technology Center or at events sponsored by Monmouth University in West Long Branch.
Power eats: "Hot" restaurants aimed at the business set are few, but try Oyster Point Hotel (Red Bank), Ashes Cigar Bar (Red Bank) and Tidal Wave (West Belmar). You're also just as likely to spot deal-making locals up the road in New Brunswick eateries. (See No. 4, Middlesex/Somerset/Hunterdon counties.)