Best Value Cities 2011:9. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

From grains to planes, a diverse economy attracts a high-tech workforce.

Cedar Rapids has soared from a sleepy (and sometimes stinky) grain-processing town to a midwestern hub for the high-tech, health care and financial sectors. The city caps one end of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Tech Corridor, home to nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies and more than a dozen foreign corporations. Local business is solid, with enzyme manufacturer Genencor wrapping up a $39 million expansion this year and proposing another. Cedar Rapids’ largest employer, aircraft systems designer Rockwell Collins, is adding 400 local jobs to its payroll. “We’re constantly hiring the best and the brightest engineers,” says Stephen Schulz, director of talent acquisition for Rockwell Collins. “We need those types of people as much as Silicon Valley or Seattle does.”

VIDEO: Take a virtual walking tour of Cedar Rapids.

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Former Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance