Fastest Growing U.S. Cities

Despite the housing bust and the recession, these 10 U.S. cities still managed to record population gains of 30% or more in the decade ending in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. The national average was less than 10% during that time.

Charlotte, N.C.

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Population: 1,249,449
Growth (2000-2010): 64.6%

Charlotte initially made its mark as a transportation hub, but these days the banking industry reigns.

Charlotte is the "second largest financial center in the nation, after New York," said Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

Bank of America calls Charlotte home, while Citi, Ally Financial, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo all host operations there. The jobs offered by these big banks have helped this city's population to swell over the years.

Also contributing to the area's growth is the "half-back" phenomenon. North Carolina receives a large number of former Northerners who first retire to Florida, but later decide to leave the state.

"They get hit by their second or third hurricane and they move halfway back to their old homes," said Morgan.

Raleigh, N.C.

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Ernest Pecounis

Growth (2000-2010): 63.4%

Named for Sir Walter Raleigh, who popularized tobacco use, the city's economic stability once depended heavily on the crop -- and the nation's love affair with cigarettes.

But these days, Raleigh is relying on much more intellectual pursuits. Part of the Research Triangle, which also includes the cities of Durham and Chapel Hill, Raleigh is now home to many tech firms, including Red Hat, the open source software company, and Etix, a web-based ticketing company for sports, entertainment and travel.

With several prestigious universities in the area, including Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State, there are plenty of new recruits for these companies to choose from.

Not only do many of the students stay after graduation, but many of their parents have come to live there as well. "The parents have gotten a chance to see the area and some choose to retire here," said Marvin Butler, chair of the Raleigh Planning Commission.

Cape Coral, Fla.

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Courtesy: Tarpon Point Marina

Population: 530,920
Growth (2000-2010): 60.8%

The first family to live in Cape Coral didn't move in until June 1958, and growth has been meteoric ever since.

Leonard and Jack Rosen bought a 103-square mile piece of land on Florida's Gulf Coast in 1957 and started selling lots for $10 down and $10 a month. They eventually sold about 350,000 lots, according to the County Clerk's office.

During the 2000's housing boom, "Cape Coral was growing like a house afire," said Dana Brunett, the economic developer for the city.

The area's biggest attractions: the weather and the water, said Coldwell Banker real estate agent Susan Ball. There are more than 400 miles of canals in the city, giving plenty of residents the opportunity to live right on the water.

And homes are extremely affordable. "There's no place you can live as inexpensively on the water as in southwest Florida," said Ball. That's especially true lately, with the median price of a home in the area at $105,000, down from the peak of $266,000 in 2006.

As a result, many future retirees are taking advantage of the bargain prices and buying early, according to Ball. They'll continue working for a few years before relocating.

"These folks are allowing renters to cover maintenance expenses and taxes, while they build equity in their retirement home," she said.

Provo, Utah

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Photo: Tom Berens; Courtesy:

Population: 482,819
Growth (2000-2010): 59%

With its pro-business policies, including low corporate taxes, and two big universities, Brigham Young and Utah Valley, Provo has become a hotbed for entrepreneurs, according to Jaren Pope, an economics professor at BYU.

The local universities also provide employers with a steady stream of willing and capable workers, according to Pope. "These are the descendants of Mormon pioneers," he said. "They have a strong work ethic and are highly motivated employees."

The area enjoyed a healthy employment rate over the past decade, even during the recession. In January, the unemployment rate in Provo was just 5.9%, far below the national rate of 8.3%.

Provo has also become a destination for retirees and others seeking a low-crime community with easy access to nature. Pope said over 90% of the state's population lives in the valleys along the Wasatch Front, the chain of towns along the base of the Wasatch Mountains.

Much of the rest of the land in the area is barely developed and Provo residents can be on the ski slopes of Sundance in less than half an hour.

Austin, Texas

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Courtesy: Austin Chamber of Commerce

Population: 1,362,416
Growth (2000-2010): 51.1%

"Economically, the University of Texas is our 800-pound gorilla," said Dave Porter, spokesman for the Austin Chamber of Commerce. "Its terrific engineering program produces a lot of young talent and it's easy to recruit young people to come here [to work]."

The area, he said, has attracted the attentions of Silicon Valley's hottest tech companies. Several, including FaceBook and LegalZoom, have opened branch offices in the area. Dell Computer, in nearby Round Rock, has also spawned many tech supplier businesses.

The young vibe in town is enhanced by Austin's popular music scene, which is second to none. The city bills itself the "Live Music Capital of the World," and boasts nearly 200 live music venues, according to the Austin Conventions & Visitors Bureau.

Its cultural jewel is its annual South by Southwest, or SXSW, festival, a 10-day film, music and interactive arts gathering that's held each spring.

Click here to see the rest of the Fastest Growing U.S. Cities.

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