It’s still a tough job market, but these 25 counties can make it a lot easier to find work and a great place to live.
Loudoun County, VA
Got data? Loudoun County does. Lots of it. With its expansive fiber networks and a swarm of tech workers, it’s a major traffic hub on the East Coast.
Major employers include Verizon Business and AOL, but the latest boom to hit this pocket of Northern Virginia’s high-tech economy? Data centers, which now occupy 4.3 million square feet in the county, earning Loudoun the nickname “Data Center Alley.”
Easy access to the nation’s capital and Dulles International Airport also creates opportunities for government and the airline and freight servicing industries. The planned extension of the Washington Metro into Loudoun, which recently got a green light for funding, is expected to lure more young professionals to the region.
Williamson County, TX
Central Texas’ Williamson County hits the bull’s eye when it comes to offering incentives for big business. Corporate tax breaks and low property taxes have attracted the likes of top-flight companies such as Dell, which employs 13,000 at its headquarters in Round Rock.
The rapid development of nearby Austin has spurred the growth of so-called “super suburbs” like Williamson County’s Round Rock and Cedar Park, where affordable housing, cultural offerings and numerous parks and trails win points with young families.
In a tough economy, the county’s incentives are looking particularly enticing to companies. Health care equipment maker Thermo Fisher Scientific said in December it’s planning to move some of its production from Wisconsin, bringing 150 new jobs.
Collin County, TX
Collin County is no longer just the country cousin of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. With an influx of young families — overall population is up 59% since 2000 — its vast pool of workers is helping the area develop its own business base.
A few area companies have been hit hard by the sluggish economy. Big employers J.C. Penney and HP both recently streamlined operations. But others are growing fast. Oil and gas firm Denbury Resources is expanding its corporate campus in Plano, which is expected to add hundreds of jobs.
Collin County is keeping its eye on the long term and shoring up infrastructure. Its airport just opened a new runway, and the county is investing millions in road improvement projects.
Denton County, TX
Manufacturing is Peerless in Denton County. Earlier this month, PMFG’s Peerless Mfg. Co. broke ground on an 80,000-square-foot facility that will employ more than 150 when fully operational.
In addition to manufacturing, retail is important to the local economy. The presence of the University of North Texas, a major research school, also helps drive the medical services sector.
Like many booming areas in North Texas, a business-friendly climate, combined with the lure of small-town Americana and an affordable way of life, has helped fuel Denton’s popularity. Retail and commercial construction are on the upswing. The area’s latest development is Belmont, a $1 billion, mixed-use construction project that will add an estimated 3,500 homes when completed.
Houston County, GA
Houston County is taking off, thanks to Robins Air Force base. The state’s largest industrial complex and a critical source of jobs, the base employs almost 26,000 and has a huge impact on the area’s economy.
The local industrial sector may still be recovering from the Great Recession, but that hasn’t kept people away. The county’s population keeps growing rapidly, and in the next few years, is expected to have climbed 80% since 1990.
Manufacturing plays an important role in Houston County’s economy, and local boosters are trying to meet the employment needs of their expanding community. Located at the crossroads of Georgia, the county wants to keep attracting businesses and entrepreneurs with its low property tax rates, acres of available land and direct access to Interstate 75, which runs through Atlanta.
Burleigh County, ND
North Dakota has struck black gold, and Burleigh County is feeling the trickle-down effect. While it isn’t one of the state’s oil patch counties, the discovery of the gushing Bakken Shale to the west has it riding on a rush that’s turned the area into Boomtown, USA. With an unemployment rate of 3.5% for 2011, Burleigh County boasts the lowest unemployment rate on our list.
A reputation for dependable workers draws businesses to the county, and easy access to transportation links goes over well with companies with goods to move. Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s freight rail network serves the area, and Interstate 94, a major east-west artery, runs through the county.
Look for opportunities in Bismarck, which serves as a retail and health care hub. Aetna is a key employer, and two major hospitals, Medcenter One Health Systems and St. Alexius Medical Center, are located here.
File photo of French President Hollande and first lady Valerie Trierweiler after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris
Anchorage County, AK
It may be cold in Anchorage, but business is heating back up in this international trade hub. In the first five months of the year, employment jumped by 1,440 jobs from the same period last year — an encouraging sign the local economy is bouncing back post-recession.
What’s keeping things humming along? For one, Ted Stevens International Airport. A strategic refueling stop for international air cargo flights, the field is responsible for roughly one in 10 jobs in Anchorage.
While aviation and cargo are particularly sensitive to swings in the economy, other opportunities are buffering the job front. Tourism and mining are both on the upswing.