Leading Locations for 2012: Ranking MSAs for Economic & Job Growth
Area Development ranked 365 MSAs across 23 economic and workforce growth indicators. In the results we see that even amid the recessionary gloom, there were blooms of prosperity, and there are some places that have gotten back on their feet faster than others.
Area Development Special Presentation (Summer 2012)

Top 100 Leading Locations for 2012 (MSAs Ranked 26-50)
    • Rank
    • City/MSA
    • State
    • Population
    • 26.
    • Salt Lake City
    • UT
    • 1,124,197
    • 27.
    • Cheyenne
    • WY
    • 91,738
    • Cheyenne, WyRanked 3rd among the Top 10 Mountain Cities was Cheyenne, which also placed 11th among the Top 50 Small Cities and 12th among the Top 25 Small Cities for its "Economic Strength" factors.

      The area has been a magnet for high-tech developments, including a recent announcement of a $112 million Microsoft data center, a $70 million National Center for Atmospheric Research Supercomputing Center, and data centers from EchoStar Broadcasting Corp. and Green House Data. Also making headlines in 2012 was a $40 million wind tower plant.

      Forbes in 2012 listed Cheyenne among the top places to retire and to work, Kiplinger ranked it 3rd "Most Tax-Friendly City," and the American Lung Association listed it as the nation's cleanest metropolitan area in terms of 24-hour particle pollution. It has landed among the "Top Places to Raise a Family" as ranked by both Forbes and Children's Health magazines.
    • 28.
    • Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown
    • TX
    • 5,946,800
    • 29.
    • Waterloo-Cedar Falls
    • IA
    • 167,819
    • 30.
    • Ames
    • IA
    • 89,542
    • Ames, IAThe Iowa community of Ames ranked 6th among Area Development's Top 20 Midwest Cities and 30th among the 100 Leading Locations. Ames placed 15th for its "Prime Workforce Growth" among the Top 25 Small Cities.

      Iowa State University is the top employer in Ames and also a prime draw for investment. The Iowa Department of Transportation supports numerous jobs, as do local healthcare providers and the federal government's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, while the manufacturing sector is represented by such names as Sauer-Danfoss, 3M, Becker Underwood, and Barilla.

      Relocating and expanding businesses have invested $200 million and created 1,000 jobs in the past five years. TheAtlanticCities.com this year named Ames the 25th "Best Place for New College Grads," while Where to Retire ranked it the 8th "Best Place to Retire." It was NewGeography.com's 56th "Best Small City for Job Growth" in 2012, and the tech sector will note that in 2011 Forbes ranked Ames 13th among the country's "Geekiest Cities."
    • 31.
    • San Angelo
    • TX
    • 111,823
    • 32.
    • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington
    • TX
    • 6,371,773
    • 33.
    • Baltimore-Towson
    • MD
    • 2,710,489
    • 34.
    • Williamsport
    • PA
    • 116,111
    • 35.
    • Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro
    • OR-WA
    • 2,226,009
    • 36.
    • Denver-Aurora-Broomfield
    • CO
    • 2,543,482
    • 37.
    • Sandusky
    • OH
    • 77,079
    • 38.
    • Ann Arbor
    • MI
    • 344,791
    • 39.
    • Jefferson City
    • MO
    • 149,807
    • 40.
    • Tyler
    • TX
    • 209,714
    • 41.
    • Laredo
    • TX
    • 250,304
    • 42.
    • Lubbock
    • TX
    • 284,890
    • 43.
    • Charlottesville
    • VA
    • 201,559
    • 44.
    • San Antonio-New Braunfels
    • TX
    • 2,142,508
    • San Antonio-New Braunfels, TXOver the past five years, San Antonio has added more than 36,000 jobs. The MSA ranked 13th among the Top 25 Big Cities in "Economic Strength" factors and was 12th among the Top 20 Southwest Cities.

      San Antonio was in the top 10 when The Wall Street Journal ranked the nation's "Best Cities for Business" last year, thanks to its long-term growth in economic output, decades' worth of job growth, and strong gains in personal income. Forbes, meanwhile, recently called it the "9th Happiest City for Jobs."

      Multiple sectors fuel the area's job growth. The bioscience sector recently got a boost when it landed headquarters and manufacturing facilities of Xenex Healthcare Services, and the automotive sector cheered when EControls reaffirmed its local commitment by moving to a larger facility and promising up to 150 new jobs. Top local employers include the U.S. military, along with military financial services giant USAA, Cullen/Frost Bankers, and Valero Energy. Additionally, among the MSA's many local headquarters are the H-E-B supermarket chain and the tasty Bill Miller Bar-B-Q chain.
    • 45.
    • Elizabethtown
    • KY
    • 119,73
    • 46.
    • Lincoln
    • NE
    • 302,157
    • 47.
    • Amarillo
    • TX
    • 249,881
    • 48.
    • Columbus
    • OH
    • 1,836,536
    • 49.
    • Buffalo-Niagara Falls
    • NY
    • 1,135,509
    • Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NYRanking 7th among Area Development's Top 20 Mid-Atlantic Cities, the Buffalo- Niagara Falls MSA mixes strong business growth with enviable quality-of-life factors. It placed 12th among the Top 25 Big Cities in "Economic Strength" indicators and 9th among that grouping for its "Recession- Busting" factors. The area recorded 5,400 new jobs in the last three years, more than all but 38 of the other 365 MSAs studied during a stretch when many places saw their employment rosters shrink.

      Prized for a low cost of doing business, Buffalo also placed 2nd on Forbes' 2011 ranking of most affordable American cities. It has been spotlighted as one of the country's cleanest cities, one of the best places for commuters, a top arts destination, and a high-ranking place for working mothers.

      Beyond the thousands who work at area healthcare providers and financial institutions, there's a strong manufacturing sector that includes Moog Inc., maker of precisioncontrol components and defense systems, and the General Motors' Tonawanda Engine Plant, which is recalling workers, reopening lines, and creating a new on-site training center. Also, in 2011, Computer Task Group announced plans to create 100 jobs in Buffalo. In all, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise has welcomed $3.1 billion in investments and more than 37,000 new jobs since 2000.
    • 50.
    • Fayetteville
    • NC
    • 366,383
    • 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 Manpower's top national job markets.
  • Next: Leading Locations for 2012 - MSAs Ranked 51-100


Top 100 Leading Locations for 2012 (MSAs Ranked 51-100)
    • Rank
    • City/MSA
    • State
    • Population
    • 51.
    • Fort Wayne
    • IN
    • 416,257
    • 52.
    • Durham-Chapel Hill
    • NC
    • 504,357
    • 53.
    • Albany-Schenectady-Troy
    • NY
    • 870,716
    • 54
    • Corpus Christi
    • TX
    • 428,185
    • 55.
    • Burlington-South Burlington
    • VT
    • 211,261
    • 56.
    • St. Joseph
    • MO-KS
    • 127,329
    • 57.
    • Ogden-Clearfield
    • UT
    • 547,184
    • 57. t
    • Grand Rapids-Wyoming
    • MI
    • 774,160
    • 59.
    • Oshkosh-Neenah
    • WI
    • 166,994
    • 60.
    • Sioux Falls
    • SD
    • 228,261
    • 61.
    • Eau Claire
    • WI
    • 161,151
    • 62.
    • Corvallis
    • OR
    • 85,579
    • 63.
    • Des Moines-West Des Moines
    • IA
    • 569,633
    • 64.
    • Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford
    • VA
    • 162,958
    • Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford	, VAThis MSA - located in Montgomery County, Va. - ranked 6th among Area Development's Top 20 South- Atlantic Cities. Specifically it ranked 5th for Employment Growth (net one-year change as percentage of population) and 48th for 2010 work force 18-44 with BA degree or higher (as percentage of total work force). The county is home to internationally renowned Virginia Tech.

      In confirmation of our rankings, in 2009, Forbes named the Blacksburg metro 31st on its list of the "Best Small Places for Business and Careers," and 14th on its list of "America's Most Educated Small Towns."

      Since 2000, relocating or expanding businesses have invested more than $265 million and created more than 4,600 jobs in Montgomery County, Va. In October 2011, outdoor retailer Backcountry.com announced plans to invest over $20 million to establish a fulfillment center in the county that will create more than 200 new jobs*, and in March of 2011, Modea, a designer of product-focused media, said it would place its headquarters in the county, creating 200 jobs, and in March of 2011, Modea, a designer of product-focused media, said it would place its headquarters in the county, creating 200 jobs.
    • 65.
    • Logan
    • UT-ID
    • 125,442
    • 66.
    • Rochester
    • MN
    • 186,011
    • 66. t
    • New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner
    • LA
    • 1,167,764
    • 68.
    • Chattanooga
    • TN-GA
    • 528,143
    • Chattanooga, TNPlacing 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."
    • 69.
    • Greenville-Mauldin-Easley
    • SC
    • 636,986
    • 70.
    • Toledo
    • OH
    • 651,429
    • 71.
    • Boulder
    • CO
    • 294,567
    • 72.
    • Rapid City
    • SD
    • 126,382
    • 73.
    • Columbus
    • GA-AL
    • 294,865
    • 74.
    • College Station-Bryan
    • TX
    • 228,660
    • 75.
    • Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
    • AR-MO
    • 463,204
    • 76.
    • Kennewick-Pasco-Richland
    • WA
    • 253,340
    • 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 has a meat-processing operation there.
    • 77.
    • Duluth
    • MN-WI
    • 279,771
    • 78.
    • Peoria
    • IL
    • 379,186
    • 79.
    • Lewiston
    • ID-WA
    • 60,888
    • 80.
    • Fairbanks
    • AK
    • 97,581
    • 81.
    • Barnstable Town
    • MA
    • 215,888
    • 82.
    • Raleigh-Cary
    • NC
    • 1,130,490
    • 83.
    • Cumberland
    • MD-WV
    • 103,299
    • 84.
    • Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton
    • PA-NJ
    • 821,173
    • 85.
    • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington
    • MN-WISD
    • 3,317,308
    • 86.
    • Ocean City
    • NJ
    • 97,265
    • 87.
    • Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin
    • FL
    • 180,822
    • 88.
    • Appleton
    • WI
    • 225,666
    • 89.
    • El Paso
    • TX
    • 800,647
    • 90.
    • Iowa City
    • IA
    • 152,586
    • 91.
    • Lafayette
    • IN
    • 201,789
    • 92.
    • Florence-Muscle Shoals
    • AL
    • 147,137
    • 93.
    • Tulsa
    • OK
    • 937,478
    • 93. t
    • Louisville/Jefferson County
    • KY-IN
    • 1,307,647
    • 95.
    • La Crosse
    • WI-MN
    • 133,665
    • 96.
    • Lansing-East Lansing
    • MI
    • 464,036
    • 97.
    • Winchester
    • VA-WV
    • 128,472
    • 98.
    • Bay City
    • MI
    • 107,771
    • 99.
    • Lawton
    • OK
    • 124,098
    • 100.
    • Hinesville-Fort Stewart
    • GA
    • 77,917