Albuquerque is a city of contrasts. Nestled between the towering Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande Valley, the city of Albuquerque is rich with culture and heritage, breathtaking landscape and equipped with vibrant energy that's indispensable to a fast-growing city. Year after year residents flock to the city to enjoy Albuquerque's quality of life and developing business environment. The city continues to grow its infrastructure, enhance its business policies and expand its outlook for current and future business prospects. The population continues to grow as well to accommodate the evolving environment. Albuquerque has grown from 5,000 residents at the onset of the railroad era in the 1880s to more than 550,000 in the year 2000, in the metro area alone. New Mexico ranks as the 12th state in the nation for growth, due in large part to the rapid population growth of the Albuquerque metropolitan area. Albuquerque is also a center for tourism, attracting skiers, museum-goers, balloonists, and adventure-seekers of all kinds. Albuquerque's temperate climate, large number of sunny days, proximity to both mountains and rivers and central location along both old Route 66 and, later, Interstate 40 have been drawing people to Albuquerque for years. Some have stayed for a few days, some for a lifetime, but nearly everyone who's ever been here has wonderful things to say about the city.