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.
1. Loudoun County, VA
Towns include: Ashburn
Job growth (2000-2011): 83.6%
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.”
2. Fort Bend County, TX
Towns include: Sugar Land, Missouri City
Job growth (2000-2011): 78.1%
Fort Bend County has come a long way from its farming days. Now it’s better known for growing jobs than for growing crops.
A favorable tax structure, strong school system and easy access to Houston make the county a triple threat when it comes to attracting — and keeping businesses. Engineering firm Fluor Enterprises, a major employer, is buying new land for a facility that is expected to add 2,000 jobs when completed.
3. Williamson County, TX
Towns include: Cedar Park,Georgetown, Round Rock
Job growth (2000-2011): 73.8%
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.
4. Montgomery County, TX
Towns include: The Woodlands
Job growth (2000-2011): 63.5%
Business in Montgomery County is soaring. Anadarko Petroleum is constructing a massive new 31-story tower at its headquarters in the commercial hub of the East Texas Woodlands. When completed in 2014, the skyscraper will accommodate 1,700.
Companies here aren’t just building up, they’re building out. Exxon Mobil is constructing a 385-acre campus that will house employees currently working in Houston. The oil giant is expected to relocate an additional 2,000 jobs from out of state to the new complex.
5. Douglas County, CO
Towns include: Highlands Ranch,Castle Rock
Job growth (2000-2011): 58.6%
Douglas County is on a Rocky Mountain High. The area is chalking up job gains, as companies choose to relocate and expand existing operations here.
With Denver to its north and Colorado Springs to the south, the county has the enviable position of being located between the state’s two biggest cities. Its natural beauty and abundant sunshine don’t hurt either.
6. Collin County, TX
Towns include: Frisco, Allen, Plano,McKinney
Job growth (2000-2011): 55.9%
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.
7. Denton County, TX
Towns include: Flower Mound,Lewisville, Denton
Job growth (2000-2011): 53.4%
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.
8. Prince William County, VA
Towns include: Dale City
Job growth (2000-2011): 48.6%
Prince William County takes the crown when it comes to offering enticing perks to businesses. Expedited permits for companies in “targeted” industries that promise high-paying jobs and capital investment is just one of the ways it rolls out the red carpet.
Also behind the job boom: proximity to the D.C. Beltway, a smart workforce and competitive tax rates. Some 770 new jobs were announced last year, a nearly 14% increase from the previous year.
9. Suffolk County, VA
Towns include: Suffolk
Job growth (2000-2011): 43.0%
It’s smooth sailing for job growth in Suffolk, thanks to the Navy’s recent decision to relocate four commands here. The move will add nearly 1,000 jobs — which is about the total number of new jobs added to the area in all of 2011.
The Navy found a solid berth. Suffolk is located close to the Port of Virginia, and like many of the places on our list, quality of life is a big selling point here. Schools, transportation and community are all strong in this city with historic charm.
10. Williamson County, TN
Towns include: Franklin
Job growth (2000-2011): 40.3%
Williamson County likes to treat companies to a good dose of Southern hospitality. Businesses choosing it as a base can be eligible for “concierge permitting,” which assigns them a dedicated staff member from the local codes department who helps speed up zoning and permitting issues.
The charm offensive, combined with the county’s highly skilled workforce and easy access to downtown Nashville, is paying off. Corporate giants like Verizon Wireless, Nissan Americas and United Health Group have flocked to the region.
The latest major player to join the 6,000 corporations that have outfits here is Viacom, which launched a services center this year that is expected to create more than 100 new jobs.
11. Sarpy County, NE 16. Cass County, ND
12. Wake County, NC 17. Lafayette County, LA
13. Faulkner County, AR 18. Burleigh County, ND
14. Houston County, GA 19. Leon County, FL
15. Bonneville County, ID 20. Johnson County, IA
21. Anchorage County, AK 22. Pennington County, SD
23. Minnehaha County, SD 24. Washington County, TN
25. Garfield County, OK
Where the jobs are