The nation's smartest people arguably can be found in central North Carolina, and it's no surprise that many high-tech companies have been drawn to them.

That's the conclusion reached by Fortune in its fifth annual list of "Best Cities for Business," which was published in the magazine's Nov. 15 issue.

In giving the Raleigh-Durham area top billing, the magazine cited a successful partnership that has been forged among academia, business, and government.

The region's three major universities -- Duke, the University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State -- supply brainpower to biotechnology, software, pharmaceutical, and other corporate ventures, many of which operate at a 7,000-acre research park.

The state has provided seed money for many startup biotech and microelectronics research centers, as well as funds for the development of a high-speed electronic communications network.

On top of that, the magazine says, Raleigh-Durham enjoys a moderate year-round climate, low-cost living, and ample leisure opportunities. New York, second on the Fortune list. was one of three Northeast cities to be included in the top ten, along with Boston in third place and Philadelphia in ninth.

Seattle came in fourth; Austin, Tex., fifth; Chicago, sixth; Houston, seventh; San Jose, eighth; and Minneapolis, 10th.

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