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The Leading Southwestern Region Metros for Economic and Workforce Growth

Area Development ranks the Top MSAs in the Southwestern states for economic and workforce growth based on the overall results from our Leading Locations for 2012 study.

Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble (August 2012)
Top 7 Southwest Cities

    • City/MSA
    • State
    • Population
    • Overall
      Rank
    • 1.
    • Odessa
    • TX
    • 137,130
    • 2
    • Odessa, TXOdessa 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.
    • 2.
    • Midland
    • TX
    • 136,872
    • 6
    • Midland, TXMany American cities have a long way to go to catch up with where their employment was five years ago, before the Great Recession hit. Midland, on the other hand, has seen proportionately more job growth than nearly every other MSA. Its workforce is just over 75,000-about 3,000 more than a year before, roughly 6,000 higher than three years ago, and more than 10,000 greater than the tally five years ago. That steady, strong growth has a lot to do with the boom in the energy industry, which has long been largely responsible for building and sustaining the economy. Among Midland's largest private employers, there are a few manufacturers and customer service centers and a medical lab, but otherwise nearly all are involved in oil and gas, along with a newer foray into wind power.

      Midland certainly has nothing against diversification, though. In fact, 100 new jobs are on the way in aerospace, thanks to an XCOR Aerospace facility planned for the local airport next year. And even within its traditionally strong energy sector, there's room for alternatives, such as solar power generated by the many days of sunshine, as well as wind power blown in by strong local wind resources and Midland's partnership in the National Institute for Renewable Energy.
    • 3.
    • Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos
    • TX
    • 1,716,289
    • 11
    • Austin, TX When it comes to job growth, Austin leads the way. One could argue that the Texas state capital never received an invitation to the recession, considering that some 63,000 more people are working there now than held jobs five years ago, before the downturn hit. Yes, the jobless rate ticked up some, but has remained well below the national average. Word about local opportunities is clearly spreading, as the population keeps growing rapidly. Austin just cracked the 800,000 mark and bumped ahead of San Francisco as the nation's 13th-biggest city, while Round Rock (also within the Austin MSA), broke the 100,000 mark.

      Brain power is one of the area's most compelling assets, as the Austin MSA has one of the county's most educated workforces-it's in the top 20 in both percentage of the workforce with a college degree and the migration of college-educated people to the area. No wonder some of its largest employers include Dell, IBM, Apple and Advanced Micro Devices. Apple, in fact, announced plans in early 2012 to more than double its local workforce with a new $304 million facility. Other noteworthy recent headlines include expansion plans involving videogame maker Electronic Arts and Progressive Insurance. Austin was one of seven cities worldwide named 2012 Intelligent Communities of the Year by the Intelligent Community Forum
    • 4.
    • Oklahoma City
    • OK
    • 1,252,987
    • 13
    • 5.
    • Longview
    • TX
    • 214,369
    • 22
    • 6.
    • Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown
    • TX
    • 5,946,800
    • 28
    • No metro area in America has added more jobs in the past five years than Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, where some 140,000 more people were working in 2012 than in 2007. Its roster of growing sectors would be a true wish list for civic leaders anywhere, covering energy, nanotechnology, information technology, health care and aerospace, among others. The area is equally strong in R&D, manufacturing, transportation and headquarters operations-in fact, among American cities, only New York has more Fortune 500 headquarters, and among MSAs, only New York and Chicago are ahead of the Houston area in headquarters operations. And more companies manufacture goods in Houston than in any other city.

      The area's biggest employers include, not surprisingly, oil/gas and chemical companies, but there are tens of thousands of health-care jobs as well near the top of the employer list. In fact, the Texas Medical Center is the world's biggest concentration of research and health-care institutions, including such globally known players as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The 2011 Global Life Science Cluster Report from Jones Lang LaSalle listed Houston among the nation's emerging clusters. Meanwhile, nearly 600 companies are involved in aviation or the space industry, thanks in part to the city's well-known Johnson Space Center, which beyond serving as a hub for America's space program is also a big transfer site for NASA-developed technology.
    • 7.
    • San Angelo
    • TX
    • 111,823
    • 31
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