Don't blink your eyes; you read it right. Tech entrepreneurs are storming into town, with Lowestfare.com and Travelscape.com leading the pack. But there are hundreds more companies, mainly small operations. That's a plus for fledgling entrepreneurs: "Do you want to get out of the shadows of big companies? Come here, and you can be a big cheese," says Doug Lein, interim manager for economic development for the city of Las Vegas. "We are a city of start-ups."
Why it's hot: "We take [recruits] to see houses they can buy here for $150,000-and we bring along a job application. When they see the houses, they want to work here," says Chris Carton, president and CEO of PurchasePro.com, a provider of b2b e-commerce solutions.
Other plusses: Despite Vegas' rep as a wild party town, Carton says that away from the Strip, "Las Vegas is a calm, well-run and well-kept city. It's a great place to raise a family." A key advantage: There's no state income tax, so employees get an immediate de facto boost in pay.
More advantages: "We have the space for businesses to grow, at comparatively low costs," says Joseph Marcella, who manages information technology for the City of Las Vegas. And for start-ups, simply getting going is a snap: "Our government is very pro-business," says Lein. "It's easy to start a business here."
What's not hot: Several of our top tech towns get low marks for weather-but Las Vegas is dead last, at least in summer. Another drawback: The city's got growing pains. "The whole town can seem as though it's under construction," says Lein. A last problem: Wall Street is struggling to see Las Vegas as a serious place to do business, and that can complicate raising cash.
Hot eats: For lunch, get a table at the Carson Street Cafe-locals say you frequently see heavyweight politicians, corporate big-wigs and others.
Hot networking spots: Grab a pint at Gordon Biersch. And mark your calendar, because every year, the mother of all tech events, COMDEX, is held in Vegas, and locals have a ringside seat. This year's will be November 13-17.