As the rest of the nation struggles through the mortgage bust, Charlotte, NC, is experiencing a boom, Time reports. The pro-business Southern city—home of Bank of America and eight other Fortune 500 firms—manages $2 trillion in assets, making it the second-largest financial center in the US behind New York. Though Charlotte isn’t as sexy a metropolis as Manhattan, the city is quickly shedding its image as a sleepy backwater town.
In recent years, Charlotte has enjoyed the nation’s lowest office-vacancy rates, healthiest urban housing market, and fastest-growing airport. Its climate and quality of life are luring a new generation of workers. And businesses not only bankroll growth, building everything from a NASCAR Hall of Fame to an African-American cultural center, but also help write civic policy. "We don't mind when the competition thinks we're Mayberry," the mayor says. "We're happy to be America's best-kept secret."