INC. 100 CEOs are based in 30 different states, with California, New York, and Texas topping the list. And half of the founders chose their location for the same prosaic reason as John Cullinane. He started Cullinet Software in the Boston area "because I happened to be living here." Richard Greene of Data Switch Corp. had lived in the same Connecticut home for 16 years and didn't want to move; James Hoak of Heritage Communications Inc. moved back to Des Moines, after a short stint with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., to set up a cable system with his boyhood friends.

One out of three of the founders chose headquarters based on closeness to markets and a trained labor pool. Computer-related companies like Gus Constantin's Phoenix American located near California's Silicon Valley; energy producers like Jesse Edwards's Mid-America Petroleum Inc. set up near the Texas oil fields. Liz Claiborne Ortenberg designs and manufactures women's sportswear on New York's Seventh Avenue, in the heart of the garment district; International Game Technology CEO J. George Drews makes video gambling machines in Reno, Nev., where the action is.

High costs and limited capital kept Robert Foster of Ventrex Laboratories Inc. and his five co-founders from locating their medical diagnostics company near their Boston-area homes. So they weighed the criteria for the perfect headquarters, including schools, quality of life, and transportation, then moved north to Portland, Maine. "If this thing failed, at least we could say we had a good life experience," Foster reasoned.

Joe Quick of Nuclear Support Services Inc. came to his Hershey, Pa., location by accident. After retiring from the military, he had settled in Virginia and set up his utility services company there. Then came the 1979 nuclear incident at Three Mile Island. "Since we moved here," he says, "business has been booming."