Best Value Cities 2011:5. Knoxville, Tenn.

It offers college sports, the Smoky Mountains and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Knoxville has managed to avoid the sharpest impact of the Great Recession, thanks to such economic drivers as the Tennessee Valley Authority (the nation’s largest public utility), the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Those employers are providing jobs and helping tech-savvy, postdoctoral entrepreneurs create small businesses in all areas of energy, from nuclear to renewable, as well as materials engineering and supercomputer technology. Protein Discovery, for example, has applied research from the Oak Ridge labs and the University of Tennessee to a spectrum of products that help analyze samples of proteins.

VIDEO: Take a virtual walking tour of Knoxville.

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Marc A. Wojno
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Wojno was formerly research director for data-intensive projects such as Kiplinger's college and mutual fund rankings. He has worked as a newswire reporter and newsletter editor for Dow Jones, covering convertible bonds, REITs and mutual funds. He also served as market research manager for Keane Federal Systems, an IT consultancy. He received a BA in communications and computer science as well as a MBA from George Washington University.