Established in the 1880s as a sawmill and manufacturing centre and later finding its place as an agricultural town, Aurora has always been an understated contributor of materials, food and talent to Toronto. The 170-year-old rail connection to the heart of the big smoke (today serviced by GO every three hours) means Aurora residents are never more than an hour from big-city action (it’s also just an hour by car). But that’s not to say that Aurora (named for the Roman goddess of the dawn), is a staid bedroom community. Sure, it’s safe (ranked #13 nationally) and family-friendly (ranked #4 for residents aged 15 to 29), but the economic aspirations of the city’s founders are stronger than ever. There are more than 2,200 businesses here and Aurora continues to attract major companies, including Magna International, Desjardins and Bulk Barn. The city ranks #12 nationally in our Self-employment subcategory, with 84 per cent of local small businesses employing less than 20 people, according to local economic development numbers.