Seattle may get the lion's share of attention, yet Portland, which is growing jobs three times faster, is anything but sleepy. Proof positive: It ranks No. 1 on our list for the second year in a row.
The economy, formerly based on timber and agriculture, is sprouting a new crop of high-tech businesses, which thrive in the lush, capital-rich Silicon Forest. Some $12 billion in capital investment has been injected into the economy, mostly by high-tech firms.
Small businesses in Portland flourish in an environment where they're respected and wooed by the public, private and banking sectors.
Historically, Oregon entrepreneurs witnessed the birth of the country's first Small Business Development Center; recently, they benefited from Venture Oregon, an event that presented start-up companies' business plans to venture capitalists.
Challenges include revamping telecommunications, transportation infrastructure and higher education. However, the city should stand strong for at least the next five or six years, thanks to careful planning, a diversified economy and up-and-coming industries, such as biotech, food processing, manufacturing and exporting.
Perhaps Portland's biggest asset, however, is the unique mind-set of its entrepreneurs, who are more intent on building lasting companies than on making it big and cashing out. Following in the footsteps of Nike (a local company made good), entrepreneurs are able to shed the trappings of other high-tech meccas and, in their characteristic laid-back way, just do it.