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Leading Locations for 2015: The MSAs with Soundest Economic Strength Indicators

Factors that indicate economic strength include per capita real GMP, manufacturing/goods-producing employment, and employment growth — for the most recent year as well as the last three- and five-year periods.

Q2 2015
Leading Locations for 2015 Resources
Factors that indicate economic strength include per capita real GMP, manufacturing/goods-producing employment, and employment growth — for the most recent year as well as the last three- and five-year periods. Another key factor is unemployment rate. Economic strength is ultimately tied to job creation and the ability to withstand economic ups and downs. Successful communities do this by supporting traditional and already established businesses, as well as targeting new industries that bring solid potential for long-term growth and high-paying jobs, such as automotive, aerospace, biomedical, electronics, and clean energy.

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.

Area Development’s research desk compiled the statistics for this report. Locations were ranked according to the methodology explained herein. Location profiles/articles researched and written by Mark Crawford, Staff Editor.
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