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In Mike Nichols' 1967 movie classic, The Graduate, Murray Hamilton, aka Mr. Robinson, advises the protagonist Benjamin (young Dustin Hoffman) on where his future ambitions ought to focus to ensure success. “Plastics,� he says.

If the movie came out today, the punch line might be “Nanotech, yo.�

Nanotechnology, which refers to both next-generation tool sets as well as manufactured infinitesimal materials finding their way into semiconductors, biotech items and manufactured materials development (including, yes, plastics), is set to go from zero to $30 billion in a short time (five years), and that's just counting nano-electronics-oriented businesses. That's according to Business Communications Co., Inc., (BCC) a Norwalk, Conn.-based analyst group, which estimates that memory and logic nano-electronics will be a $220 billion market by 2013.

If technological applications make it out of the labs quickly and start showing up in everything from semiconductors to hip replacement materials, wouldn't it be fun to know where the next Silicon Valley or Route 128 was going to be?

“Most of the action is happening around places that have universities and institutes that have committed in a serious way to a nanotech effort, and in many cases, they may spin off into the first wave of nanotech business startups,� says Mindy Rittner, PhD, director, nanotechnology research at BCC. She cautions those who might move too quickly on real estate or other investments based on which locations will balloon quickly following the current map of where scientists are into nanotech 24/7.

The Albany, N.Y. area where research breeding ground Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is putting the town of Troy on the map, could be regarded as an up-and-coming community, but there are some caveats and considerations that weigh against it as a boom town in waiting.

“You've got to believe that many of the smaller companies that pop out of institutes and universities are going to get bought and absorbed by the big, already extant organizations in these businesses,� says Rittner. “Where the next generation of high-tech businesses is going to be springing up is anyone's guess.�

Three key factors will characterize fast-growth cities of the present and future, says Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics. “Where the jobs are is just one of the issues,� he says. “Even more important, it's where there's easy access to amenities like recreational bodies of water, scenery, mountains, serenity and finally, it's where the cost of housing hasn't already skyrocketed as it has in places like Silicon Valley, Route 128, San Jose.�

For Francese, good bets on tech boom towns include areas such as Portsmouth, N.H., and the Research Triangle in North Carolina on the East Coast. In the middle of the country, he predicts great things for Colorado, and on the West Coast, he sees Washington state and Oregon as having great potential.

In the accompanying maps, we've overlayed data on where the highest to lowest concentrations of people are with advanced graduate degrees, together with where nascent nano-businesses have cropped up. Where do you think the next Silicon Valley will be?

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