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The Leading Metros for "Prime Workforce" Growth

Area Development Online Research Desk (August 2012)
The Leading Locations for 2012 report ranked 365 MSAs across a range of economic and workforce indicators.

To calculate overall ranking within the "Prime Work Force" category, we re-ranked the cities based only on 7 selected indicators from the 23 indicators used to arrive at the overall rankings. The selected indicators measure the youthfulness and educational level of a cities workforce, inward migration trends of educated workers, and trends in average wages.

We believe our Leading Locations report provides a good measure of those MSAs that found a way to bounce-back strongly from the depth of the economic downturn. And, we feel a solid indicator of a region's economic vitality - and an even better predictor of that region's future success - is its ability to attract inward migration of an educated workforce.

Wage and salary growth measures the quality of the jobs being created and sustained. According to Garner Economics, "changes in earnings can be an early indicator of developing opportunities or challenges" within a region.

Not surprisingly, in most of the cities that rank well in our "Prime Work Force" indicators, you will find a strong university, providing the kind of technology-transfer capacity that attracts a talented labor pool, sparks entrepreneurial activity, and provides an attractive destination for the types of startups and advanced manufacturing companies that will propel metropolitan economies as the economy continues to bounce back and take shape.


    Top 15 Cities - Prime Workforce Growth

      • City/MSA
      • State
      • Population
      • Overall
        Rank
      • 1.
      • Ithaca
      • NY
      • 101,564
      • 109
      • 2.
      • Durham-Chapel Hill
      • NC
      • 504,357
      • 52
      • Durham-Chapel Hill, NCIt's known as the "City of Medicine," a reasonable nickname given the more than 300 medical and health-related companies in the Durham-Chapel Hill area. But as one component of the renowned Research Triangle Park, "City of Medicine" really tells just part of the story. That's because the nation's first science-focused business park targets not just medicine, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology but also information technology and other hot disciplines. Research is a prime driver of the economy, thanks to the presence of prestigious Duke University, which also happens to be the biggest local employer. But even that is just part of the story, as North Carolina Central University also is gaining on the research front, especially biotechnology research.

        Durham-Chapel Hill did not escape the recession unscathed, but in the past year has enjoyed impressive recovery. Positive headlines cover not just Durham itself but its whole section of North Carolina. For example, Durham-based Semprius Inc. picked a community not far away for its first solar cell manufacturing plant. And Burlington Technologies Inc., also not that far from Durham, is adding more than 100 jobs at its specialty textiles factory.
      • 3.
      • Manhattan
      • KS
      • 127,081
      • 17
      • Manhattan, KSThis northeast Kansas community has been an engine for job growth, chugging along nicely while the national economy faltered. In fact, the Kansas Department of Labor reports that it had the state's highest rate of job growth across the past decade, and as of 2010, those companies with active economic development agreements collectively had created 26 percent more jobs than they originally promised. Providing stability are the area's biggest employers, including Kansas State University and nearby Fort Riley. The so-called "Little Apple" is also the headquarters of GTM Sportswear, maker of sports uniforms and sweatshirts, and Manko Window Systems, among other manufacturers. Those who sew may know that countless patterns are made at McCall Pattern Co. in Manhattan.

        It's a relatively quiet community, but nevertheless gets plenty of positive attention. Forbes, for example, placed it fifth among the Best Small Places for Business and Careers. It was ninth on New Geography's 2011 Best Cities for Job Growth, and among the top places to retire identified by SmartMoney.
      • 4.
      • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
      • CA
      • 1,836,911
      • 7
      • San Jose, CA There's certainly a lot of economic success growing in Silicon Valley. It's not that the San Jose metropolitan area avoided the recent economic downturn, because employment took a significant hit. But the rebound has been phenomenal, with net employment up by more than 26,000 in just the past year. Some of those people are working for such companies as health-tech's SEA Medical Systems and videoconferencing vendor Polycom, which in 2012 opened headquarters there. Some are working in the green economy, which accounts for 4,000-plus local jobs. More jobs will arrive soon to man the regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, whose local opening could be seen as a nod to the innovation that happens just about every hour of every day in the San Jose area.

        Indeed, knowledge-based technology is what really put the San Jose area on the map. More than 6,000 tech companies provide work for more than a quarter million people, and the headquarters here are a veritable who's who in technology, from Apple to Google to Yahoo to Hewlett-Packard to Cisco to eBay. IBM and Hitachi are big employers, too. With all of that innovating going on, it's hardly surprising that San Jose tops the nation in per capita GDP.
      • 5.
      • Missoula
      • MT
      • 109,299
      • 202
      • 6.
      • Harrisburg-Carlisle
      • PA
      • 549,475
      • 185
      • 7.
      • Columbus
      • IN
      • 76,794
      • 1
      • Columbus, INRanking 1st among the 100 Leading Locations overall, the small Indiana city of Columbus also led Area Development's 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).
      • 8.
      • Rochester
      • MN
      • 186,011
      • 66
      • 9.
      • Fayetteville
      • NC
      • 366,383
      • 50
      • Fayetteville, NCIn the 4th spot among Area Development's Top 20 South-Atlantic Cities was Fayetteville, which also placed 15th 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 M.J. 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.
      • 10.
      • Jefferson City
      • MO
      • 149,807
      • 39
      • 11.
      • Kennewick-Pasco-Richland
      • WA
      • 253,340
      • 76
      • Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WAThis 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 Development's 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's Pacific 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.
      • 12.
      • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos
      • CA
      • 3,095,313
      • 198
      • 13.
      • Pittsburgh
      • PA
      • 2,356,285
      • 12
      • Pittsburgh, PAShining brightly on a wide range of measures, the Pittsburgh area made it through the recession remarkably well, with employment growth among the best in the nation across the last three years as well as a five-year span. It's an incredible turnaround from the economic woes of about three decades ago, and what was once an economy that relied heavily on steel has been diversified with a focus on innovation, including in the energy sector. Just one example is the decision in March 2012 by Shell Oil to build a multibillion-dollar ethane refinery near Pittsburgh, promising some 10,000 industry jobs and about that many construction jobs. Meanwhile, the area is also home to Westinghouse, where thousands of jobs are linked to commercial nuclear energy.

        Some of the biggest employers in the Pittsburgh area are in health care, education and government, and nearly 18,000 jobs are supported by financial giants PNC and Bank of New York Mellon. And steel certainly hasn't gone away, as United States Steel Corp. remains a major local employer. The region's successes have attracted the attention of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which in July 2012 hailed Pittsburgh's job growth as exceeding the national average. As for quality of life, Farmers Insurance Group in late 2011 ranked Pittsburgh the safest big city, and The Washington Post in early 2012 hailed it as the new "In" city.
      • 14.
      • Oklahoma City
      • OK
      • 1,252,987
      • 13
      • Oklahoma City, OKOklahoma 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 Cost- Effective City." And in The Wall Street 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
      • 15.
      • Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville
      • SC
      • 664,607
      • 14
      • Charleston, NCRanking 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 2011, 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."
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