This kind of diversity pays off. For example, Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC/SC, ranks eighth among big MSAs for economic strength and twelfth overall in this category. Its economy consists of a variety of sectors that create a solid economic base that helps the city withstand economic downturns and other challenges. Top industries include finance, healthcare, defense, aerospace, aviation, food products, chemicals, and energy. During the past decade, nearly 7,000 companies have invested more than $8 billion in Charlotte facilities. This kind of economic strength also attracts foreign investment — Charlotte is home to consuls for more than a dozen countries, including Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Switzerland.
Partnerships between government agencies and private industry also help build a robust business climate. Among small MSAs, Bowling Green and South-Central Kentucky ranked in the top-10 for economic strength. This region maintains a rich history of traditional manufacturing, including automotive, food, and textiles/clothing. To diversify, South-Central Kentucky’s 10 counties are working together to attract new industries by developing training and certification programs and “work-ready” communities. As a result, Nemesis Arms, a leading manufacturer of innovative tactical rifle systems, announced in December 2014 it would move its operations from California to Edmonson County. “Nemesis Arms coming to Edmonson County — the result of the combined efforts of economic development organizations in South-Central Kentucky — demonstrates why regionalism is one of the greatest assets we have,” states Ron Bunch, president of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.
Another key to long-term economic strength is keeping business costs low, which helps companies maintain their margins and keep workers employed — especially during tough economic times. Florida has some of the lowest business costs in the country. Its unionization rate for private-sector manufacturing is fourth-lowest in the United States. Florida has also eliminated the manufacturing and equipment sales tax, saving the state’s manufacturing companies about $141 million annually. These low-cost advantages are some of the reasons why four Florida MSAs — Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Naples-Marco Island, Jacksonville, and North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota — all placed within the top 50 Leading Locations in the overall “Economic Strength” category.