Five Jobs That Let You Be Your Own Boss

By Christina Couch, ClassesUSA

Thinking of moving from the corner office to the home office? Approach with caution, says Barbara Weltman, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Home-based Business" (Third Edition). From building a clientele base and deciphering individual health insurance to creating (and sticking to) a regular schedule, home-based entrepreneurs face a wide array of challenges those chained to a cubicle can easily avoid.

So before taking the entrepreneurial plunge, check out some of the top home-based businesses and learn how education can put you – and keep you – in the entrepreneurial driver's seat.

Graphic/Web Designer:
Technologically savvy folks looking for creative freedom will be happy to know that one out of every four Web designers find the autonomy they're craving by working for themselves, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One of the easier fields to transition into a home-based business, Web design firms require little more than a phone line, computer and professional contacts. Though 75 percent of the industry still works for "the man," Web designers armed with an associate or bachelor's degree can frequently pick up freelance work on the side, giving them the ability to build a network of clients before shifting into being their own boss.

EBay Entrepreneur:
No space? No problem, say the 1.3 million people who use eBay as their source of income. A $45 billion-plus-per-year business, eBay generates more than $2,000 in sales per second. Whether your passion is daybeds or dog sweaters, the estimated 600,000-plus eBay PowerSellers rake in between $1,000 and $150,000 per month without ever leaving home. Instead of battling to make a local name, eBay entrepreneurs have instant access to the site's 276 million users spanning 39 global markets, giving anyone with an Internet connection and a knack for writing product descriptions a low-cost way to tap into buyers across the globe. While there's no official eBay major, many eBay entrepreneurs bone up on their business skills through marketing, finance and accounting courses through their local community college or Chamber of Commerce.

Financial Consultant:
"People who are consultants are ideal candidates for having a home-based business because they can conduct work from anywhere," says Weltman. She adds that businesses such as consulting – those that are based on providing expertise rather than a physical product – work well for entrepreneurs looking to escape the common cubicle. An estimated 35 percent of those in the management, business or financial sector are home-based CEOs. Though financial consultants hail from a wide array of educational backgrounds, the BLS reports that the majority hold bachelor's degrees in a business-related field and many hold a master's in accounting or finance as well.

Interior Designer:
"For a residential interior designer, a home-based business works fine because it has nothing to do with where you actually run your business from," reports Suzanne Davis, president of the Richmond, Va.-based firm I Design Interiors, Inc. "Everything important happens in the client's home." Requiring little more than a bachelor's or specialized degree in interior design to get started, interior designers (26 percent of whom the BLS reports are self-employed, frequently from their own homes) say that working in a residential environment can be more inspiring than staying in a cubicle. "Homes are my job, so it makes sense to work from one," Davis says.

Phone line: check. Internet access: check. Vehicle for making sales calls: check. For Cathy Koch, president of the Pleasant Ridge, Mich.-based industrial temperature control systems distribution firm K-Tec Systems, Inc. that's all the equipment she needs to generate $800,000 in annual sales.

"When a customer places an order with us, we buy what we need from the factory and ship it directly," Koch explains. "I can do this from my home because I can order exactly what I sell."

Like many sales-based businesses, Koch's firm works because little on-site stocking is required and, thanks to modern technology, Koch can take orders from anywhere. "Servicewise, there's no difference between working with me and working with a large company," Koch comments. "None of my clients know that we're based from home."

Though educational requirements for salespeople vary tremendously from industry to industry, those looking to jump into sales can get started with general business classes at either the community or four-year college level.

No matter what type of business you launch, Giovanni Carotolo, executive director for the small and mid-market business councils for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says that all future home CEOs need to consider the space requirements, zoning laws and number of employees they'll need to manage. "Write a reasonable business plan and do some research on whether this business is feasible," Carotolo recommends. "Not having basic business management skills is the reason many [home CEOs] fail."

Copyright 2008 ClassesUSA. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

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Fun Facts: Gemini

Versatility is a great keyword for this dual sign. Expressive and quick-witted, the Gemini presents two distinctive sides to his or her personality, and you can never be sure with which one you're going to come face-to-face. On one hand, the Gemini can be outgoing, flirtatious, communicative, and ready for fun, fun, fun. Yet when the other twin is present, you can find this air sign contemplative, serious, restless, and even indecisive. Both twins are able to adapt to life's circumstances well, making them wonderful people to know. Things are never boring when a Gemini is on the scene.

Friends and Family
Geminians are social and love spending time with friends and family. There will be times when this outgoing sign would want to go bungee jumping, and there will be times when sitting at home playing cards will suit them. Either way, friends are plentiful. Those who can match the Geminian intellect and love of variety will go the distance. One quality they seek out in others is communication. The Gemini loves to talk and gain insight from others. Without a clear flow of talk, the Gemini will lose interest pretty quick. Family is important, especially those of like mind. Friendship with siblings is quite common for the Geminian, and time spent together is cherished. Meeting responsibilities with family can pose a challenge at times, but almost always, the Geminian comes through.

Career and Money
The best-suited careers for a Gemini are those that stimulate the intellect. "I think" is the key phrase for this sign. Geminians are inventive and often literary. It's important that the work they commit themselves to doing is dynamic and challenging so boredom doesn't set in.

Careers as a teacher, debater, reporter, writer, preacher, or lawyer are all well-suited to this sign. Any platform that gives the Geminian room to talk is best! A sales profession is another excellent choice. You can expect to see many tools for communication around this sign, such as PDAs, laptops, and cell phones. Generating new ideas and problem solving are other areas where the Geminian will shine.

Deciding between practicality and pleasure can be a tough thing for a Gemini. While money is a necessary evil, most don't spend a lot of time worrying about where their next dollar is coming from. They don't put much thought into balancing their checkbooks, yet they manage to get by just fine. This is largely due to the flexibility Geminians have.

Love and Sex
Fun-loving and always up for an intellectual challenge, the Gemini is a spirited lover. The talk that precedes the interlude is just as important as the actual contact for this sign, and when it comes to wit, this sign holds nothing back. Flirtatious and curious, the Geminian will spend time with a lot of different lovers until they find one that can match their intellect and energy level. The Gemini needs to experience excitement, versatility, and stimulation to feel fully satisfied. Once the perfect match is found, though, the Geminian can settle into a lifestyle for two for the long haul.


Each sign has a part of the anatomy attached to it, making this the area of the body that is most sensitive to stimulation. The anatomical areas for Gemini are the lungs, collarbone, hands, arms, shoulders, and the nervous system.

Ruling Planet
The ruling planet for Gemini is Mercury. Representing intellectual urge and the avenue of expression, this planet rules reason, rationalization, words, awareness, and communication. Its action is quick, and it deals with travel, speaking, writing, trade, and emotional capacity and technique.

The color of choice for Gemini is green.

Gemini's star stone is the Moss Agate.

Lucky Numbers
Gemini's lucky numbers are 3 and 7.

Geminis are most compatible with Libra and Aquarius.

Opposite Sign
The opposite sign of Gemini is Sagittarius.

The Perfect Gift
A surprise party, gift certificate to a bookstore, any activity with friends, Scrabble or other intellectual game

Music, magazines, books, music, blogs, chats with nearly anyone, short trips around town

Repetition and routine, being alone, being confined

Natural sign of the Third House. This house focuses on short trips, communication, conscious mind, brothers and sisters, and early education.

Famous Geminians
Hugh Laurie, Johnny Depp, Rudy Giuliani, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Helena Bonham Carter

Best travel destination
Switzerland, Wales, London, San Francisco, Melbourne

Curiosity, ability to share ideas, adaptable, affectionate, kind

Scattering energy in too many places at once, fickle in love, nervous, short attention span

Charismatic marks
Expressive eyes, quick, bright, often small-boned, refined features

Best environment
Any busy neighborhood, places where people gather to gossip, bookstores, museums

Content by: MSN

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Where The Web Is Weak

By Andy Greenberg,

Tolstoy wrote that happy families are all alike, while every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Something like the opposite might be said for Web sites. Many of the Web's millions of insecure pages can be hacked with just one or two tricks. But patching the bugs in each of those vulnerable sites requires a unique solution.

Case in point: Last month, a single attack ripped through the Web, infecting more than half a million sites including those of the Department of Homeland Security, the United Nations and the British Government. Using Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ) searches, the attackers' software--written partly in Chinese characters--identified sites vulnerable to a hacking technique called SQL injection and infected them en masse with malware designed to steal the bank codes of the sites' visitors. (See " Google Hacking Goes to China.")

In late April, the sites hosting that malware were identified by security researchers who in turn notified the Chinese Internet service provider and had them disconnected from the Internet. But the job of cleaning up the Web's mess, says Jeremiah Grossman, the chief technology officer of White Hat Security, is far from over.

In fact, Grossman says that the majority of those sites remain vulnerable to the same attack. The typical SQL injection vulnerability, he says, takes a site's owner more than four months to locate and fix. That's because, unlike exploits that affect a typical software program, Web vulnerabilities can't be secured with an update downloaded from a vendor--every site has its own bug to excise.

"We can't issue a mass patch," says Grossman. "Each issue is unique. Together they present an almost catastrophic problem."

In Pictures: Eight Ways To Hack The Web

The 500,000 or so sites compromised in the latest attack are just a fraction of the threat to the Web. In a study released last February by Google, more than 3 million of the 60 million pages analyzed were found to invisibly download malicious software to users' computers. According to the study, about 1.3% of Google searches turned up at least one of those malicious pages, more than triple the percentage of malicious results from just eight months earlier.

The number of legitimate sites vulnerable to being hacked and corrupted with malware that infects visitors is far higher still. According to White Hat Security's most recent analysis of about a thousand major Web sites, 16% were vulnerable to SQL injection, an exploit based on mixing malicious commands with innocent user input to gain access to a site's server. Fully 65% of the sites analyzed were vulnerable to another exploit known as cross-site scripting, which can mix malicious elements into a legitimate site when a user clicks on a carefully crafted link.

Grossman has also repeatedly warned of another common Web vulnerability he calls a "sleeping giant." So-called "cross-site request forgery" can be used to steal information from many password-protected sites. If a Web user logs in to a Web service and then is tricked into visiting a compromised page, the second malicious page can steal the user's "cookies"--files collected by his browser used to verify his identity. Those identifying files give the coders of the malicious page temporary access to whatever sensitive information can be found on the password-protected site.

The persistence of vulnerabilities like these, says Johannes Ullrich, who teaches a class on Web vulnerabilities at the SANS Institute, is partly a cultural problem. To patch a vulnerability before it's exploited, an enterprise's security team has to convince Web developers to devote their resources to what may seem like a minor issue--but a big-time drain. Making fixes often involves wading through thousands of lines of code, Ullrich says, in some cases written by developers who left the company long ago.

Last month's massive round of SQL injections was the largest-ever round of malicious Web hackings, but hardly the first. Last February, the server hosting the Dolphin Stadium Web site was compromised just before the Superbowl began. In June, thousands of Italian-language sites were similarly targeted with SQL injections in an incident that security researchers now refer to as "the Italian Job." The same Internet service provider that hosted those sites was attacked again in early May, infecting another round of sites with malware designed to exploit users.

But securing the Web isn't just about protecting sites' visitors, Ullrich argues. It's also about protecting a company's own data. The attackers who used SQL injections to plant malware on hundreds of thousands of sites last month, for instance, could just as easily have stolen corporate data. "If the attackers hadn't left a trail by inserting malware on the sites, we probably wouldn't even have known that they had gained access to the databases," Ullrich says.

Even for a security conscious business, protecting against Web attacks isn't easy, Ullrich says. Because a Web page has to be accessible by all visitors, keeping out cybercriminals isn't as easy as building a firewall. "You can't block all visitors to your Web site. So quite frankly it comes down to the fact that only the code itself prevents an attacker from accessing your database," he says. "The Web is simply a very thin layer of defense."

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Making Social Sites Safer

By Wendy Tanaka,

Maggie didn't always feel safe on MySpace. The 17-year-old New Rochelle, N.Y., resident used to receive lewd instant messages from a man who found her on the popular social networking site.

But after making a few changes to her profile recently, Maggie, who asked us not to publish her last name, got rid of the perpetrator and reclaimed her sense of security on the site. "I blocked the person's screen name, reported him on MySpace, changed my age to 99 and made my profile private," she says.

These small, common-sense actions can make a huge difference in safety on social networks, experts say. MySpace, Facebook and other social networks advocate taking such measures and post safety guidelines on their sites. While the majority of people on social networks are safe, a few high-profile cases of sexual predators and cyberbullying, such as the Missouri teen who committed suicide in 2006 after receiving taunting comments on her MySpace page, have prompted the industry to seek more ways to keep users out of harm's way.

At the behest of 49 states and the District of Columbia, MySpace in January agreed to implement a number of new safety policies. So far, MySpace has taken several steps, including creating an online tutorial to help parents better understand social networking and adding a software tool that allows parents to determine if their teens have a MySpace profile. In May, Facebook agreed to similar measures to make its site safer.

See: "Seven Tips For Keeping Kids Safe Online"

MySpace, the world's largest social network with more than 117 million monthly users, also created a task force to develop age and identity verification technology to protect minors from inappropriate behavior and content. In February, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School was selected to head the task force, and two dozen other companies and organizations, including Facebook, Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ), Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) and the Progress and Freedom Foundation, joined the initiative.

The task force, which is working on recommending identity verification technologies that can be used in the industry, has met twice so far. The discussions have centered on whether identity technologies can make social sites safer, or whether consumer education works best. State attorneys general believe more technological solutions are necessary, but some task force members contend that identity technologies on the market aren't adequate. And even if they were better, they likely can't prevent every unwanted incident and they could block contact between friends and relatives.

"So, if he's 16 and she's 21, they shouldn't talk? Maybe they're brother and sister," says Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

Thierer also says that too many checks and restrictions could turn off users and hamper advertising on social networks. "There's only so far the sites can go before undermining their business and cutting off their customer base," he says. "At some point, it becomes an annoyance for users."

Both Facebook and MySpace, however, say safety improvements should make their sites more attractive to advertisers. "It makes users loyal and advertisers want to come to our site," says Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer at Facebook.

MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam agrees that advertisers like secure sites. "Every advertiser wants to make sure its brand isn't tarnished on a particular site," he says.

The focus on identity technologies makes the assumption that sexual predators are the biggest safety problems for social networks, but cyberbullying is far more common. According to a recent report in the journal Pediatrics, a third of children age 10 to 15 said they have been verbally harassed online, while half as many reported being sexually solicited.

Larry Magid, co-director of task force member, an Internet safety site for families, says most children who get involved with sexual predators understand the situation. "It appears that kids who do get in trouble with predators are high-risk kids," he says. "In one way or another, they are seeking out this attention."

Magid and Thierer say there should be more consumer education to prevent cyberbullying and more common-sense practices to ensure greater safety on social sites. "There are no easy technical fixes for complex human behavioral problems," Thierer says. "We need to teach kids 'Netiquette.' "

Parry Aftab, a former Internet lawyer who now runs, another task force member, says it's too early to say how the task force will handle all these issues. "It's going to take us a little while to gather everything together," she says. "When you're dealing with social issues, everyone comes at it with his own perspective. The most important thing to come out of this is a reality check: this is important, this isn't. Do a lay of the land and here's where we go."

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The Power of a Mother's Promise

Twenty-seven years ago this month, my mom made a promise that changed our lives forever.
by Stacy Wiebe

Now that I'm also a mother, I've come to see that promise as a kind of spiritual umbilical cord, a maternal link God used to bring new to life me and my family, and to countless others.

Prayer from a mother's heart
On May 30, 1975 my sister Carey was born. She was a true angel baby - sleeping through the night from the day we brought her home. She completed a trio of girls; I was four, and Amy, two.

A week after Carey's birth, Mom knew something was terribly wrong. Her left leg suddenly stopped working, dragging behind her.

By the time she arrived at the hospital, her leg was dead black. An astute nurse immediately nailed the cause: blood clots. Two hundred of them, the doctor said, coursed through her veins. One passed through her lung, causing pneumonia and kidney failure.

In her hospital bed, Mom had a conversation with God - something that had often comforted her battered heart as a child. Growing up, her parents partied hard and often abandoned her; when they were home, they were more harsh than loving. God's was the best listening ear she knew.

Now she turned to it again: "Oh, God, I want to live to see my babies grow up and get married," she prayed. "Please help me. I will do anything…" And then she made a promise: "I'll… I'll read the Bible. From cover to cover."

After 10 days in the hospital, Mom came home. The doctor said that if the clot that had passed through her lung had been a hair bigger, she wouldn't have survived.

As she recovered, Mom remembered her promise. Starting in Genesis, she plodded through the super-size Bible she had bought, even though much of it seemed to reinforce her childhood notion that it was decipherable only by men who wore stiff collars.

Even so, a lot of what she read moved her, and when she came upon the question "What must I do to be saved?" in the book of Acts, chapter 16, the answer spoke directly to her: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

She responded then to God's voice in her spirit, and was filled with understanding of how His love had led Him to send His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for everything she had ever done wrong in her life - and ever would do. "It was quite a revelation," she later told me.

One thing I remember around this time is an earnest, private conversation with my mom. She revealed to me the truth about Santa Claus, and afterwards pulled out a book and read about a woman named Mary who had a baby named Jesus. She told me, "This story is real."

The cross and the barber pole
When I was eight, Mom decided our family needed to go to church. We attended various services, but church felt like a foreign, impenetrable culture with its own language and customs.

Mom found herself offering up another big prayer, "God, if You really want us to go to church, You're going to have to send one to our back yard."

God answered three months later in the form of a short Norwegian pastor in his 70s. He came to our door to invite us to a new church starting up at the barber/beauty shop three miles down the road. By country standards, three miles is on your front porch!

We went to the inaugural service, walking past the hair-washing sinks to the main room of the A-frame building. Though we sat discreetly in the back, we failed to make ourselves invisible. In fact, that little community of about 20 people immediately embraced us and over time, through their lives, showed us the winsomeness and Truth of genuine Christianity. My mom grew in her faith, and it wasn't long before my dad, my two sisters and I each decided to follow Jesus as our Forgiver and Leader.

Life, BC and AD
In the following years, I had a front-row seat to changed lives. God re-fashioned my parents' character, their habits, their attitudes.

Their abundant affection and the inner experience I had of God's love under girded me during my awkward school-age years.

Then I became a teenager.

In ninth grade, I decided to change my misfit image for the gloss of popularity, whatever the cost. I'll come back to God later when I'm done doing things my way, I reasoned. I shrugged off any consequences and believed that to have a "good" testimony, like so many of the dramatic ones I had heard, that I had to have a "past."

At 17, I finally woke up. God helped me imagine how my life might turn out if I continued shunning His love and leadership. I thanked God for protecting me in spite of my unwise choices and I realized the incredible privilege of having been spared the pain that my parents had experienced before knowing Christ.

Three weddings and a baby
When my sisters and I each married, Mom relished in the weddings. God answered her prayer that she would see us wed, and the subsequent ones that each of us would choose a mate who loved God.

Her joy ballooned with the arrival of grandchildren, and when it was my husband Mike's and my turn to tell them we were adding to the brood, we flew home to share the news in person.

A few days into our visit , my nurse-practioner called. A blood test had come back positive for "Factor V Leiden," a genetic blood disorder that can cause clotting during pregnancy and post-partum. The nurse wanted me to start right away on injections of heparin, a blood-thinning medication. Without it there was a high risk for miscarriage, still birth or blood clots.

At first I felt sorry for myself. Suddenly I was having a "high risk" pregnancy. Sticking my stomach with a needle twice a day was not the way I had envisioned enjoying my growing abdomen.

Mom felt guilty: "How could I have passed this on to you?" she thought.

It wasn't long before our emotions melted to thankfulness. God had intervened and prevented me from suffering what my mother had - or something worse. My obstetrician told me that few doctors are screening for this genetic blood disorder, which was discovered just 10 years ago.

"Why me?" became, "Why have I been singled out for so great a grace?"

A new branch
On March 30, 2001 my mom witnessed for the first time the birth of a baby - my son, Liam.

My greatest hope for Liam is that he will respond to God's gift of grace and follow Him with all his heart. As he grows, I will tell him that God has a plan for his life, and that He intervened to protect him in the womb. I'll tell him this parallels the way God's grace intervened to touch the spiritual deadwood that characterized our family tree, grafting in a new branch - one that is spiritually alive.

And I'll tell him how it all began with a mother's promise.


A new branch in your family tree could start with you!
As a young girl, my mom told her parents, " I am going to raise my family differently." They laughed and said, "You will see." She did not know then that the difference she would raise us girls with was Christ.

Following Christ and creating a Christian home is something no one can do though, by just "trying really hard." We need help - or better - the one Jesus called the "Helper."

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has given you His Holy Spirit to help you live life according to His perfect plan. Why not pray this simple prayer and by faith invite Him to fill you with His Spirit:

Dear Father, I need You. I acknowledge that I have sinned against You by
directing my own life. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through
Christ's death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place
on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be
filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith.
I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I thank You for
directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Amen
If you prayed this prayer today, we would love to hear from you . Perhaps we could connect you with a mentor or provide resourceful links that could help you in this new journey.

Content By: Thoughts-About-God

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Where’s the best place to live in America?

Charlotte, N.C., leads’s annual ranking of the top 100 cities.
By Amy Hoak,

Apparently, there's just something about North Carolina. For the second year in a row, America's best city in which to live lies within its borders, according to's annual list.

This year, Charlotte is in the top spot, the site announced late last week. Last year's winner was Asheville, which slipped to No. 7 on this year's list.

"North Carolina is very active on our radar," said Steve Nickerson, president and CEO of HomeRoute. "It continues to get a flood of interest from all over."

HomeRoute is the real-estate firm that operates, a source of community information and real-estate resources for people who are relocating. Each year, the site ranks the top 100 places to live in the country.

Areas need to be nominated on the site in order to be eligible for the list; more than 2,000 were nominated this year, Nickerson said. Special efforts are made to prevent spamming campaigns from influencing the results, he added.

But the site's editorial team also takes into account an area's growth, its educational and employment opportunities, crime rates and housing options before granting it a spot in the top 100. Environmental highlights also play a role, with a city gaining points for good air and water quality or the strength of its recycling efforts, Nickerson said.

Home-price appreciation does get some consideration; however, it's only one piece of the analysis, Nickerson said — explaining why some struggling real-estate markets in California and Florida, for example, still made the top 100. Areas that offer a comfortable climate and economic opportunity tend to be the most sought-after communities on the site, he said.

Charlotte's diversity of housing options and home affordability were two of the reasons users nominated the city, Nickerson said. The city's strong economy, boosted largely by the banking industry, was another selling point.

Second on this year's list was San Antonio, which people praised for its cost of living, recreational opportunities and diversity, he said. Chattanooga, Tenn., came in third place, noted for its vibrant downtown and affordable home prices in the nominations.

Below are the top 10 cities on's 2008 list:
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • San Antonio
  • Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Greenville, S.C.
  • Tulsa, Okla.
  • Stevens Point, Wis.
  • Asheville, N.C.
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Huntsville, Ala.
  • Seattle
Read the full list at

The firm also plans to release a coffee-table book on the top 100 soon, Nickerson said. Proceeds will benefit American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, he added.

The view from the topCertainly, being ranked as the top city to live in has its benefits, mainly as a marketing tool for the area, said Tony Crumbley, vice president of research for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. An e-mail blast sent news of this list to thousands of residents, and the chamber actively keeps track of where Charlotte falls in many of the lists that are published.

"They are important," Crumbley said of the good rankings the city receives. But he also knows that these rankings come and go and that they're somewhat subjective; the city's appeal can change from one day to the next, depending on who is writing the list.

There weren't any significant changes in Charlotte during the past year that would account for boosting the city to the top of this particular list, he said. But the city definitely gets recognized a lot more today than it did 25 years ago, he added.

Bank of America and Wachovia have their headquarters in Charlotte, and it's also a hub for US Airways — all of which seem to have increased the visibility of the city outside its boundaries, Crumbley said. The addition of professional sports teams since the 1980s has also helped.

In recent years, Charlotte has been successful in attracting young, educated workers to relocate there, he said. Asheville, on the other hand, has become a popular choice with retirees, he added.
But cities can easily make it to the top of one list and rank poorly on another, he said. Case in point: One recent list ranked Charlotte as one of the country's most miserable cities, a ranking, not surprisingly, that Crumbley and others disagree with.

Forbes also ranked it as one of the best places to invest in foreclosures, in part because the real-estate market there is relatively stable.

"If they're good, you use them. If they're bad, I won't tell you you should ignore them — you look at them," he said of the lists on which Charlotte appears. But negative rankings aren't likely to end up getting used as a marketing piece for the city.

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