NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A battle cry can now be heard in small cities and towns across the U.S. Banners have been hoisted in a crusade vital to American success: Keeping America's businesses both small and large from leaving for bigger metropolitan areas, or even worse, heading for another country. For some cities, not fighting is not an option. Between the soft economy, persistent unemployment and global competition, it's a matter of life or death for their local economies. The cities are even joining ranks to fight side by side. "There's been this slow awakening in the country among cities and MSA's (metropolitan statistical areas) in particular. Cities that really used to fight tenaciously over city borders are much more open to regionalism," says Thom Ruhe, vice president of entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation. Ruhe says this trend is a byproduct of global competitive realities. "Kansas City can't look like they're competing against Des Moines when they're struggling to be economically relevant on a global stage," he says. Cities all across the U.S. must figure out ways to attract and retain big Fortune 500 companies, but equally as important, nurture and support the growth of their entrepreneurial ecosystem. When it comes to local government support as well as resources for growth, small businesses have historically been the under-served market. That's changing in cities from Cleveland to Louisville, Ky., and it's a movement being led by progressive city governments that are thinking outside the box when it comes to economic longevity, Ruhe says. The cities we've picked represent the first group we plan to highlight over the coming months for making their case to attract and retain entrepreneurs.