The Leading Southern Region Metros for Economic and Workforce Growth
Area Development ranks the Top MSAs in the Southern states for economic and workforce growth based on the overall results from our Leading Locations for 2012 study.
Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble (July 2012)
Top 7 Southern Cities
- No. 1 among the Top 20 Southern Cities and 3rd overall among Area Development's 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
It's home to the University of Louisiana-
Lafayette, plus numerous significant players
in oil and gas. Lafayette Parish has seen $1.3
billion in business investments since 2005,
and 2011 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
150 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 2011 Rand McNally/USA Today
"Best of the Road" rankings.
- Education and medicine are major forces in the Nashville economy, with Vanderbilt University and its medical center at the top of the list of local employers. Near the top is HCA, the leading hospital company, along with Saint Thomas Health Services. But it's by no means a one-dimensional economy. The automotive business, for example, benefits from the strong influence of the Nissan assembly plant in Smyrna, not far away. Nashville is also the global headquarters of Asurion, provider of insurance coverage for cell phones and similar equipment. And Electrolux has manufacturing and R&D operations in nearby Springfield.
The business news has been brimming with good news from Nashville in recent months. For example, IQT Inc., a business process outsourcing firm, picked Nashville for its U.S. headquarters and a 900-job call center. And online retailer Amazon is opening a distribution center in the area, worth about a thousand jobs. Nashville makes frequent appearances on business rankings, including Forbes' "Best Places for Business & Careers," Business Insider's "15 hottest American Cities of the Future" and Thumbtack.com's analysis of the ease of starting a business, which Nashville placed fifth. Kiplinger, meanwhile, put Nashville at the top of a list of U.S. metropolitan areas "poised to become job-creating machines in the years ahead."
- 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
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."
- New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner
- It's a city that made worldwide headlines when Hurricane Katrina blew through and caused unbelievable devastation, and the media were around again in 2010 when a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused significant environmental and economic damage. Who could have imagined New Orleans would become one of the hottest stories in job growth in the country? Greater New Orleans Inc. reports some $20 billion in investments in a half dozen target sectors, from the foundational energy, international trade and advanced manufacturing sectors to the areas in which the region aims to diversify, such as software, bio-sciences and sustainable industries.
Helping to spur major growth are development incentives along with low costs. There are plenty of resources for companies looking for grow in a big way. The health of the energy sector helps, too. Education and health care remain strong, with the list of top employers including Louisiana State University Health, Tulane University, University of New Orleans and North Oaks Health System. Northrop Grumman Ship Systems employs thousands, according to Greater New Orleans Inc., as does the local Harrah's casino. NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility has long had a powerful economic role in the area.
- 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 10 cities where home
values were expected to rise in 2011, and
last year Where to Retire profiled Chattanooga
as a "Top Retirement Town."
LEADING LOCATIONS FOR 2012 RESOURCES