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Has Georgia been on your mind these days? According to a recent Census Bureau release, from 1990 to 1998, three of the top-ten fastest-growing counties with 10,000 or more people were in Georgia. The sprawling Atlanta MSA claims Forsyth, Henry, and Paulding counties, all of which have seen unemployment lines shrink and per capita income rise steadily in the past few years. Roughly 79 percent of homes sold in the MSA during the fourth quarter of 1998 were affordable for households earning the area's median income ($54,700), according to the National Association of Home Builders. Still, there's a dear price to pay for expansion. Nearly 350,000 acres of forest have been cleared in the Atlanta region since 1973 to make room for roads and suburbs, according to a new NASA-sponsored survey. More people and less vegetation, the survey contends, has turned Atlanta into an "urban heat island" with temperatures up to 10 degrees higher than surrounding areas and the ability to create its own weather.

Not every place trotted out the welcome wagon during the '90s. Norfolk, Virginia waved goodbye to military families as bases in the region reduced their rolls, accounting for part of its nearly 18 percent population decrease. The District of Columbia didn't fare much better, with its population dropping 13.8 percent. Perhaps Beltway types moved out to Loudoun County in Virginia-its population jumped 67 percent.

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