Which MSAs Rank Highest for Economic & Job Growth?
IT'S CERTAINLY NOT NEWS THAT TIMES HAVE BEEN TOUGH ACROSS AMERICA'S CITIES IN RECENT YEARS. The Great Recession may be officially over, but many communities are still suffering a painful hangover.
Not these MSAs, though. Area Development's Leading Locations have found a way to thrive in the midst of adversity, to prosper while so many places have struggled. More than 9 million jobs vanished during the course of the downturn, and of the 365 MSAs - Metropolitan Statistical Areas - studied here, more than three-quarters still have fewer people working now than they did five years ago. But even amid that gloom, there were blooms of prosperity, and there are some places that have gotten back on their feet faster than others.
This analysis of Leading Locations is informed by two dozen different economic and workforce indicators from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Census American Community Survey. It ranks the 365 MSAs in a variety of ways, including an overall ranking that crunches 23 indicators, plus separate rankings of "Prime Workforce Growth," "Economic Strength," and "Recession-Busting" factors.
WHAT GENERAL CONCLUSIONS CAN BE DRAWN?
The truth is, there are myriad explanations for why these MSAs have fared the way they have. But take a look at the top performers overall and you'll see a lot of locations closer to the nation's midsection than the coasts - Indiana, Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, to name a few. That generally holds true among the top locations in the three factors lists as well.
Otherwise, though, these top locations advanced for a variety of reasons. Some of the locations highest on the list are experiencing explosive growth in extraction of energy from shale or from the Gulf of Mexico. Green energy developments are fueling growth elsewhere. Other communities are benefiting from the "comeback" of U.S. manufacturing and the presence of major employers that have cracked the puzzle of exporting to those parts of the world where growth remains hot. Still others have top employers cashing in on life sciences or technology innovations. More than likely these locations are home to universities providing a young, prime workforce and technology-transfer skills.
Read on for a closer look at some of the locations that we choose to highlight among the 100 leaders and find out what's driving their success.
The Iowa community of Ames ranked 6th among Area Development's Top 20 Midwest Cities and 30th among the 100 Leading Locations. Ames placed 1 5th for its "Prime Workforce Growth" among the Top 25 Small Cities.
Iowa State University is the top employer in Ames and also a prime draw for investment. The Iowa Department of Transportation supports numerous jobs, as do local healthcare providers and the federal government's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, while the manufacturing sector is represented by such names as Sauer-Danfoss, 3M, Becker Underwood, and Barilla.
Relocating and expanding businesses have invested $200 million and created 1,000 jobs in the past five years. TheAtlanticCities.com this year named Ames the 25th "Best Place for New College Grads," while Where to Retire ranked it the 8th "Best Place to Retire." It was NewGeography.com's 56th "Best Small City for Job Growth" in 2012, and the tech sector will note that in 201 1 Forbes ranked Ames 13th among the country's "Geekiest Cities."
This MSA - located in Montgomery County, Va. - ranked 6th among Area Developments Top 20 SouthAtlantic Cities. Specifically it ranked 5th for Employment Growth (net one-year change as percentage of population) and 48th for 2010 work force 1 8-44 with BA degree or higher (as percentage of total work force). The county is home to internationally renowned Virginia Tech.
In confirmation of our rankings, in 2009, Forbes named the Blacksburg metro 3 1 st on its list of the "Best Small Places for Business and Careers," and 14th on its list of "America's Most Educated Small Towns."
Since 2000, relocating or expanding businesses have invested more than $265 million and created more than 4,600 jobs in Montgomery County, Va. In October 201 1, outdoor retailer Backcountry.com announced plans to invest over $20 million to establish a fulfillment center in the county that will create more than 200 new jobs*, and in March of 201 1, Modea, a designer of product focused media, said it would place its headquarters in the county, creating 200 jobs.
BUFFALO-NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK
Ranking 7th among Area Development's Top 20 Mid-Atlantic Cities, the BuffaloNiagara Falls MSA mixes strong business growth with enviable quality-of-life factors. It placed 12th among the Top 25 Big Cities in "Economic Strength" indicators and 9th among that grouping for its "RecessionBusting" factors. The area recorded 5,400 new jobs in the last three years, more than all but 38 of the other 365 MSAs studied during a stretch when many places saw their employment rosters shrink.
Prized for a low cost of doing business, Buffalo also placed 2nd on Forbes' 201 1 ranking of most affordable American cities. It has been spotlighted as one of the country's cleanest cities, one of the best places for commuters, a top arts destination, and a high-ranking place for working mothers.
Beyond the thousands who work at area healthcare providers and financial institutions, there's a strong manufacturing sector that includes Moog Inc., maker of precisioncontrol components and defense systems, and the General Motors' Tonawanda Engine Plant, which is recalling workers, reopening lines, and creating a new on-site training center. Also, in 20 1 1 , Computer Task Group announced plans to create 100 jobs in Buffalo. In all, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise has welcomed $3.1 billion in investments and more than 37,000 new jobs since 2000.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Ranking 2nd among Area Development's Top 20 South-Atlantic Cities was the Charleston -North Charleston-Summerville MSA, earning its place on the strength of a 2nd place showing in "Recession-Busting" indicators, 5th place ranking in "Prime Workforce Growth/ and 9th place ranking in "Economic Strength" factors among the Top 25 Big Cities. The MSA ranked 21st among the 100 Leading Locations for its employment growth net 3-year change.
From mid-2009 through mid-2011, the area landed $ 1 .4 billion in new capital investment and nearly 5,500 new jobs. In May, The Brookings Institution ranked Charleston first in the nation in manufacturing job growth. The MSA's new Boeing assembly plant recently marked the first 787 Dreamliner flight from South Carolina; the plant will ultimately create more than 4,000 direct jobs. Another 200 jobs are on the way at an $85 million power cable plant planned by French manufacturer Nexans. Top local employers beyond Boeing include Google, Daimler, BAE Systems, Robert Bosch, Force Protection, Blackbaud, and Lockheed Martin.
Forbes placed Charleston 5th among midsized metro areas on its "Best Cities for Jobs" listing in May; in 201 1, The Wall Street Journal named it tops in the nation for growth in college degrees, and last year CNN listed it 3rd among the "World's Best Cities."
Placing 7th on the list of Area Development's Top 20 Southern Cities, Chattanooga ranked 22nd among the Top 25 Mid-Size Cities in "Recession-Busting" factors. And bust the recession it has, with new investments over the past five years from Amazon to Volkswagen. Last year, VW opened its billion-dollar plant there, and this spring the company announced the hiring of 800 more people. In all, VW and others such as Alstom, Sanofi-Aventis, and Amazon.com dropped about $3 billion into the Chattanooga economy during the recent recession.
Journalists and analysts have also spotlighted the community's pluses. Outside Magazine named Chattanooga the "Best Town Ever" this year, and CNNMoney.com put it on the list of "8 Cities That Want Your Business." Forbes named Chattanooga as one of the top 1 0 cities where home values were expected to rise in 201 1, and last year Where to Retire profiled Chattanooga as a "Top Retirement Town."
Ranked 3rd among the Top 10 Mountain Cities was Cheyenne, which also placed 1 1th among the Top 50 Small Cities and 12th among the Top 25 Small Cities for its "Economic Strength" factors.
The area has been a magnet for high-tech developments, including a recent announcement of a $1 12 million Microsoft data center, a $70 millionNational Center for Atmospheric Research Supercomputing Center, and data centers from EchoStar Broadcasting Corp. and Green House Data. Also making headlines in 2012 was a $40 million wind tower plant.
Forbes in 2012 listed Cheyenne among the top places to retire and to work, Kiplinger's ranked it 3rd "Most Tax-Friendly City," and the American Lung Association listed it as the nation's cleanest metropolitan area in terms of 24-hour particle pollution. It has landed among the "Top Places to Raise a Family" as ranked by both Forbes and Children 's Health magazines.
Columbia placed 2nd in the Top 20 Midwest Cities, with solid performance in most of the metrics studied. It also ranked 2nd among the Top 25 Mid-Size Cities for its "Recession-Busting" indicators, and 5th for its "Economic Strength" factors among this group. Employment numbers were respectable throughout the recent recession and really took off in the past year. The city has maintained a jobless rate well below the state average for years.
It's the ultimate college town, home not only to the flagship campus of University of Missouri but also to Stephens College and Columbia College, plus campuses of a few more institutions. Major industrial sectors include life sciences, human and animal health, and information technology. Two significant insurance operations also employ more than a thousand people apiece.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a large presence in Columbia, and the veteran-focused sector also includes the VA Mortgage Center, which last year landed state incentives to support the addition of as many as 300 jobs.
Ranking 1st among the 100 Leading Locations overall, the small Indiana city of Columbus also led Area Developments Top 20 Midwest Cities and Top 25 Small Cities rankings. Among small cities, Columbus placed 3rd in "Economic Strength" factors, 4th in "Prime Workforce Growth," and 5th for its "Recession-Busting" indicators.
Columbus is the headquarters of Fortune 500 diesel engine and power generator maker Cummins Inc., which employs more than 7,000 locally. Japanese driveshaft manufacturer NTN employs 1,700 in Columbus, auto emission control and exhaust systems maker Faurecia maintains production and North American R&D there, and Dorel Juvenile Group makes child safety seats and handles R&D in Columbus. The city has averaged one corporate expansion announcement a month since 2010, creating 1,840 jobs, and current employment figures there are the thirdhighest on record. Columbus had the nation's 4th-highest GDP growth in 2010 (the most recent figures available), and though it's a one-county MSA with a population of about 77,000, its GDP is greater than that of 37 countries.
Among the significant 2011 headlines, Japanese auto components maker Sunright America announced plans to create 100 jobs, and Cummins announced an $18 million investment with 600 new jobs at its headquarters and tech center. Columbus was recognized in February by the Christian Science Monitor as the "top city for job growth," the AARP last fall put it among the top 10 "Affordable Cities," and its strong collection of prominent architecture ranks 6th in the United States (the top five cities with strong collections of prominent architecture are much larger).
FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROUNA
In the 4th spot among Area Development's Top 20 South-Atlantic Cities was Fayetteville, which also placed 1 5th overall among the Top 50 Mid-Size Cities and 4th for its 'Prime Workforce Growth" among the Top 25 Mid-Size Cities. The city's three-year and five-year employment change remained in positive territory through the recession, a feat envied by many American cities. Fayetteville also was 14th among the Top 25 Mid-Size Cities for its "Economic Strength" indicators.
Since 2000, Fayetteville's industrial sector recorded investments totaling more than $850 million and creating nearly 6,000 jobs. The healthcare business remains quite robust, with the announcement this spring of a 1,200-job facility by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Fayetteville business scene is diverse, with such headquarters as MJ. Soffe, Union Corrugating, Nitta Gelatin, OmniSource, Morty Pride, and Hercules Steel, plus operations representing everything from Goodyear Tire and Rubber to Maidenform to Northrop Grumman to DuPont. which has continued to invest in its Fayetteville operations.
According to Fayetteville's chamber, recent rankings have placed the community among the top-five defense industry locations, 2nd highest in the state in per capita income, among the nation's top-five most affordable housing markets, and among Manpower's top national job markets.
This part of Washington State placed 5th among the Top 25 Mid-Size Cities in "Prime Workforce Growth" and 10th among this same group of cities for its strong "Recession-Busting" indicators. The so-called "Tri-Cities" also placed 4th overall among Area Developments Top 10 Pacific Cities.
On the surface, the Tri-Cities seem almost laid back, with stunning scenery, 300-plus days of sunshine a year, and most of Washington's highly regarded, $3 billion wine business. However, amid that science and technology thrive, led in terms of employee count by the U.S. Department of Energy'sPacific Northwest National Laboratory and DOE contractors such as CH2M Hill Hanford Group, Bechtel National, Mission Support Alliance, and Washington River Protection Solutions. ConAgra Foods, meanwhile, processes frozen potatoes in the area, and Tyson Foods has a meat-processing operation there.
No. 1 among the Top 20 Southern Cities and 3rd overall among Area Developments 100 Leading Locations was Lafayette, Louisiana. It topped the "Economic Strength" indicators among the Top-25 Mid-Size Cities, and was 3rd among this same group for its "Recession-Busting" factors.
It's home to the University of LouisianaLafayette, plus numerous significant players in oil and gas. Lafayette Parish has seen $1.3 billion in business investments since 2005, and 201 1 was its best year ever, with more than $330 million invested and 2,700 jobs created. Among the many headlines, Halliburton last year picked Lafayette for a 1 50 job. $65 million plant to produce components for oilfield service operations.
The city is accustomed to accolades, being named Forbes' "Best Mid-Sized City for Jobs" in 2012. Sentier Research this year reported that the Lafayette MSA had the fastestgrowing income among all U.S. metro areas, and its jobless rate under 5 percent this spring was the lowest in Louisiana. It also was Southern Living's 2012 "Tastiest Town in the South" and the "Best Small Town for Food" in the 201 1 Rand McNaIIy/ USA Today "Best of the Road" rankings.
Odessa tops the list of Area Development's Top 20 Southwest Cities. The city also placed 2nd among the Top 25 Small Cities in "Economic Strength" and 3rd in "Recession-Busting" factors, and 2nd among the Top 50 Small Cities overall.
An oil boom is presently fueling local employment, filling jobs not just in energy but also across the economy, including in construction, hospitality, and business services. Some local companies have even set up "man camps" to house laborers, and in nearby Midland, major local employers and the city are considering going together on an apartment complex to meet the demand for housing. Unemployment is down to just above 4 percent, and building permits in 2012 topped $100 million by May.
An array of investments dots the Odessaarea map. One of the biggest is the Texas Clean Energy Project, worth more than $2 billion in investment, 1,500 construction jobs, and 200 high-paying operations positions. Given the way this boom is attracting residents, it's no surprise that projects also include everything from housing to churches to restaurants.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma City is a solid "Recession Buster," ranking 4th among the Top 25 Big Cities in those factors and also 4th in "Prime Workforce Growth" and 6th in "Economic Strength" factors among this same group of MSAs. It also placed 4th among Area Development's Top 20 Southwest Cities as well as among its Top 50 Big Cities overall.
That's no surprise to national economic observers: Garner Economics this year reported Oklahoma City had the highest annual earnings growth rate among large metro areas; Business Journals ranked it the 3rd "Best City for Small Business"; Forbes called it the 4th "Best City for Jobs"; and KPMG ranked it the nation's "Most CostEffective City." And in The Wallstreet Journal, Thumbtack.com said the area is No. 1 in overall regulatory friendliness.
Education, energy, and the military are among top local employers: examples include Tinker Air Force Base, the University of Oklahoma, the Federal Aviation Administration's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, Chesapeake Energy Corp., and OG&E Energy Corp. Since 2006, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has helped new and expanding businesses invest $459 million and create 32,490 jobs. Among many headlines, Boeing in 2010 and 201 1 announced plans to relocate military and government support operations from elsewhere, adding more than 1.300 jobs, and Devon Energy Corp. is building a 50-story headquarters that will house 2,600 employees.
Owensboro placed 4th on Area Development's Top 20 Southern Cities, with a 9th place ranking for its "Recession Busting" factors among the Top 25 Small Cities. Its three-year employment growth as a percentage of population was 23rd-best among all of the 100 Leading Locations.
Helping Owensboro prosper is a diversified economy, as evidenced by announcements from both the tobacco and financial sectors: Pinkerton Tobacco and U.S. Bank are investing in the MSA. Other major employers (in addition to the local health system) include a Unilever Foods pasta sauce plant, a Specialty Foods Group meat-processing plant, and transportation manufacturers Toyotetsu MidAmerica and Metalsa. Four institutions of higher education serve the area, and even as the nation trudged through recession, the community's eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation was nurturing two dozen startups, winning $50 million in investments, and creating 70 jobs with pay averaging nearly $100,000.
The New York Times last year spotlighted Owenboro's downtown revitalization; New Geography placed it 22nd among its "Best Small Cities for Job Growth in 2012," and Bloomberg BusinessWeek called it the "state's best place to raise kids."
SAN ANTONIO-NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS
Over the past five years, San Antonio has added more than 36,000 jobs. The MSA ranked 13th among the Top 25 Big Cities in "Economic Strength" factors and was 12th among the Top 20 Southwest Cities.
San Antonio was in the top 10 when The Wall Street Journal ranked the nation's "Best Cities for Business" last year, thanks to its long-term growth in economic output, decades' worth of job growth, and strong gains in personal income. Forbes, meanwhile, recently called it the "9th Happiest City for Jobs."
Multiple sectors fuel the area's job growth. The bioscience sector recently got a boost when it landed headquarters and manufacturing facilities of Xenex Healthcare Services, and the automotive sector cheered when EControls reaffirmed its local commitment by moving to a larger facility and promising up to 1 50 new jobs. Top local employers include the U.S. military, along with military financial services giant USAA, Cullen/Frost Bankers, and Valero Energy. Additionally, among the MSA's many local headquarters are the H-E-B supermarket chain and the tasty Bill Miller Bar-B-Q chain.
* MORE INFORMATION ON UNDERSCORED COPY IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND IN THE "NEWS ITEMS" SECTION OF AREA DEVELOPMENT ONLINE.
MANY OF THE LEADING LOCATIONS ARE HOME TO UNIVERSITIES.
Area Development ranked 365 MSAs across 23 economic and workforce indicators. These 23 indicators were pulled from seven (7) data sets (sub-categories) originating from three sources, as follows: (1) "Young, Prime Workforce," U.S. Census American Community Survey; (2) "Prime Workforce Inward Migration," U.S. Census American Community Survey; (3) "Local Area Unemployment Rate," Bureau of Labor Statistics; (4) "Wage and Salary Growth," Bureau of Labor Statistics; (5) "Per Capita GDP," Bureau of Economic Analysis; (6) "Manufacturing Job Growth," Bureau of Labor Statistics; (7) "Job Growth," Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Each MSA earned a ranking within each of the 23 indicators based on its statistical performance within that indicator. The MSA with the best performance in a certain indicator earned a ranking score of "1 " and the MSA with the worst performance earned a ranking score of "365."
To calculate "Overall Ranking," we added the total ranking across all indicators for each MSA and then divided by the total number of indicators to reach an average ranking. The MSA with the lowest average earned the #1 overall ranking, while the MSA with the highest average ranked #365 overall.
We also calculated overall ranking across three categories: "Prime Workforce," "Economic Strength," and "Recession-Busting" factors. To calculate the overall ranking within these three categories, we produced an average ranking across only certain sub-category indicators. An indicator did not have to be exclusive to our category rankings. For instance, the "Employment Growth Net 3-Year Change as Percentage of Population" was used within both the "Economic Strength" and "Recession-Busting" categories.
We have also produced a set of lists, using our overall results and category results, grouping the MSAs by region and size. We ranked the Top 10-20 MSAs in each region (defined by Area Development Online taxonomy), and we also ranked the top MSAs across three size groups: "Small" (population < 160,000), "Mid-size" (population 160,000-600,000), and "Big" (population > 600,000). We ranked the cities within each size group against our overall rankings and "Prime Workforce," "Economic Strength," and "Recession-Busting" categories.
For a full explanation of the methodology behind our Leading Locations report, go to www.areadevelopment.com/LeadingLocations2012/methodology.
THE LEADING LOCATIONS ARE AMONG THE NATION'S "RECESSIONBUSTERS."
AN ARRAY OF INVESTMENTS I HAVETAKEN PLACE IN THE LEADING LOCATIONS.
OTHER RESPECTED SOURCES CONFIRM THE LEADERS' TOP RANKINGS.
LOCATION PROFILES WERE RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN BY STEVE STACKHOUSE, STAFF EDITOR.
100 Leading Locations Report Sponsors
CITY OF SAN JOSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
As the urban core of the world's leading innovation region, the City of San Jose is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and companies developing technologies that will create economic opportunities for generations to come. Through comprehensive facilitation services, forward-thinking policies, and flexible incentives, San Jose is creating an environment in which new and existing companies will be able to flourish, create new jobs, and drive innovation. Our team will work closely with your business to ensure that you have access to timely information, services, and connections within the Silicon Valley community to ensure that your investment in our community is a success.
COLUMBUS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BOARD
Home to three U.S. R&D/Tech Centers, a Fortune 200 HQ, and a robust manufacturing base, Columbus, Indiana, is highly specialized in industries that benefit from superb STEM education offerings and a Midwest location. The Columbus (Indiana) Economic Development Board leverages these strengths as a leader in business expansion and attraction efforts.
INDIANA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
Established in February 2005, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is focused exclusively on business growth, retention, and attraction for the state of Indiana. The IEDC is organized as a public/private partnership to attract and support new business investment, create new jobs, and keep Indiana competitive in the 2 1 St century economy.
IOWA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
Iowa provides the ideal climate for business growth and innovation. The state's pro-business policies, nationally recognized research centers and legendary Midwestern work ethic - combined with the nation's lowest cost of doing business - give businesses with an Iowa location a huge competitive edge. Those business advantages fuel an innovation economy in high-growth industries including renewable energy, information technology, advanced manufacturing, biosciences, and food processing and packaging
MICHIGAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
We are reinventing Michigan in a way that works better for everyone and moving forward with a new economic certainty that is very attractive to investors and businesses making new location and investment decisions. With one of the best business climates in the country, unmatched leadership in manufacturing, abundant talent, and a quality of life like nowhere else... Opportunity is Pure Michigan.
Missouri's pro-business environment continues to attract companies from many business sectors, contributing to the state's diverse and stable economy. Companies in advanced manufacturing, energy, IT and financial and professional services look to Missouri for its large, skilled work force and low business costs.
WINSTON-SALEM BUSINESS INC.
Winston-Salem is a diverse community with a multitude of resources for helping companies succeed. With a stable, skilled work force and collaborative spirit, the area has seen strong growth in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, financial services, technology research and development, and other expanding sectors of the economy.
ODESSA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Economic Development Department of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, the Odessa Industrial Development Corporation, and the Odessa Development Corporation recruit and attract new industry as well as maintain our existing industry base. All three organizations work very closely when dealing with business issues.
SAN ANTONIO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
San Antonio, Texas is a thriving city with a flourishing economy and culturally diverse, vibrant work force. The combination of low business costs (cost of living 8 percent lower than the national average), a work force of almost 1,000,000, and a great business environment makes San Antonio a key location for growth companies.
UTAH GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (GOED)
The Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) is your front door to the #1 state for business and careers Forbes 201 1 and 2012). GOED provides resources for the creation, growth, and recruitment of companies, and the ITT project in Salt Lake City - 2,700 jobs, $120 million in investment - exemplifies our approach.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Montgomery County, has been named by Forbes as "A Best Small Metro for Business S Careers," by CNN Money as "A Best Place to Live and Launch," and by Outside Magazine as a "Top 10 Dream Town." It's home to Virginia Tech'sCorporate Research Center, where more than 140 tech-based companies employ 2,200 knowledge workers.
TRl-ClTlES DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
Located in southeastern Washington, the Tri-Cities (KennewickPasco-Richland MSA) is a leader in energy research, technology manufacturing, and food processing. It is the fastest-growing MSA in the region, a major transportation hub, with 7,000+ scientists and engineers, and offers affordable living.
THE STATISTICS FOR THIS REPORT WERE RESEARCHED AND COMPILED BY JUSTIN SHEA, ONLINE MANAGER. LOCATIONS WERE RANKED ACCORDING TO THE METHODOLOGY EXPLAINED HEREIN.