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Leading Locations for 2013: The Recession-Busting MSAs

Bouncing back from the Great Recession hasn’t been easy — many cities are still struggling to regain high-quality job growth and economic prosperity. Area Development looked at several key economic indicators to identify the top-10 “recession-busting” cities that are having the most success in rebooting their economies and creating good-paying jobs.

Q2 / Spring 2013
A big reason these cities are successful is that they focus on their core assets and work hard to create positive business climates and recruit new companies — especially keeping costs down for both established companies and new startups.

For example, last year Oklahoma City was named the least-costly city to do business among 13 mid-sized U.S. cities, according to KPMG. Oklahoma City’s cost index of 95.5 was significantly lower than the average U.S. index of 100.0. Cost advantages for labor, facility leases, expenses, and taxes contributed to the city’s favorable ranking.

“Oklahoma City’s cost-effectiveness makes this a great place to do business,” says Roy H. Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “Across all business sectors, the low cost of living and the availability of business incentives provides a secure environment for businesses to flourish.”

In South Carolina, Charleston was recently ranked ninth out of 100 U.S. cities for job recovery by the Brookings Institution, as well as 23rd for recovery from the recession. This quick rebound is in large part due to its diversified economy, friendly business climate, work force recruitment and training programs, favorable tax structures, and special discretionary incentives for qualifying projects. The willingness of local and state governments to work pro-actively with business is a big reason North Charleston-based Boeing Company has committed to investing $1 billion in its operations and hiring up to 2,000 workers over the next eight years.

Another recession-busting city that is working hard to build a pro-business tax climate and reduce the cost of doing business is Dubuque, Iowa. Incentives include effective worker training programs and project-specific work force recruitment campaigns. The city’s innovative certificate training and scholarship program entitled “Opportunity Dubuque” was recently honored by the Mid-America Economic Development Council (MAEDC) for its success in upgrading skills and creating a talented work force for advanced manufacturing industries.

“Our robust work force initiatives have allowed us to minimize the risk for key decision-makers considering Dubuque for future business needs and potential work force,” says Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation. “Opportunity Dubuque is a critical work force solution for existing businesses looking to expand, as well as prospective clients weighing Dubuque against other locations around the globe.”

    • City
    • State
    • 2010
    • Overall
    • 1.
    • Oklahoma City
    • OK
    • 1,252,987
    • 10
    • 2.
    • Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos
    • TX
    • 1,716,289
    • 15
    • Austin, TX Key industries in the Austin MSA are advanced manufacturing, electronics, multimedia technology, clean energy and power technology, life science and biotechnology, and data centers. According to the Brookings Institution, Austin ranked first overall among the 100 largest U.S. metros based on amount recovered from pre-recession peak to the present, based on jobs, unemployment, gross product, and housing prices. Further, Austin placed second on the 2012 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index.

      Much of this economic growth is driven by improved performance in chip-making and systems design. Dell, IBM, Apple, and Samsung are among the largest technology employers. Backed by a $21 million investment through the Texas Enterprise Fund and an $8.6 million grant from the city of Austin, Apple will undertake a $304 million expansion of its facilities, eventually creating 3,600 well-paying jobs. Samsung's $4 billion expansion of its semiconductor manufacturing operations will increase its total investment in Austin to $13 billion since 1996. GM plans to build a 500-employee innovation center and eBay, another major Austin employer, will hire about 1,000 software engineers over the next 10 years.

      With this kind of growth in high-technology fields, it is no surprise that Austin has also recently been named by the Business Journals as one of the top three cities for young adults to establish careers in post-recessionary America.
    • 3.
    • Boston-Cambridge-Quincy (NECTA DIVISION)
    • MA
    • 2,863,943
    • 16
    • Boston, MA With over $4 billion in new development projects totaling more than 10 million square feet under construction, Boston is booming. The Innovation District along the South Boston waterfront has attracted over 200 new companies and 4,000 new jobs across a variety of industries, including technology, life sciences, design, and advertising. Vertex Pharmaceuticals is currently building its $800 million, 1.1-million-square-foot global headquarters in the heart of the district.

      The Boston MSA enjoys an international reputation for healthcare and medicine. According to Jones Lang LaSalle, nearly 75,000 people in the Boston MSA are employed in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries — second only to San Diego. Boston's 22 hospitals and 34 colleges and universities are important anchors in the city's economy. The city is also the leading recipient for National Institute of Health funding in the U.S. — in fact, five of the top eight NIH-funded hospitals are within the Boston MSA.

      An outstanding educational system and high quality of life are just two reasons why Boston has such a diverse and youthful population — about one third of the city's population is between the ages of 20 and 35. Many of these energetic, young professionals work in the high-tech growth sectors of advanced manufacturing, clean energy, defense, IT, and life sciences/biomedicine.
    • 4.
    • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (METROPOLITAN DIVISION)
    • DC-VA
    • 4,377,008
    • 19
    • Washington DC "DC" has one of the most diverse economies in the country. The federal government employs about one third of all workers in the city and provides contract work to hundreds of companies, especially in high-tech fields like aeronautics, defense, telecommunications, electronics, IT, and other services. Other important employment sectors are industry trade associations, financial groups, and scientific research through federal organizations, as well as top research universities and medical centers. Tourism, the second-largest industry in the city, is on the rebound — nearly19 million visitors pumped about $5 billion into the local economy last year.

      With all this activity, it is no surprise that economic development and commercial construction within the city are booming. According to the Washington, D.C., Economic Partnership's 12th annual DC Development Report, about 21.5 million square feet of commercial space is under construction, valued at about $9.5 billion. Residential construction is also hot, with over 10,000 units being built — the most since 2001.
    • 5.
    • Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown
    • TX
    • 5,946,800
    • 26
    • 6.
    • Pittsburgh
    • PA
    • 2,356,285
    • 31
    • 7.
    • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
    • CA
    • 1,836,911
    • 34
    • San Jose, CA Known as the heart of the Silicon Valley, the San Jose MSA has a rich tradition of high-tech entrepreneurship, innovation, and discovery. About $8 billion in venture capital funding is invested in the region every year, driving R&D and commercialization efforts, especially in the fields of nanotechnology, communications, and information and computer technology (ICT). Major players include Cisco Systems, Samsung, eBay, Google, and Yahoo.

      Top universities in the area — San Jose State University, University of California-Berkeley, and Stanford University — attract some of the best student talent in the country, turning out an impressive number of highly skilled scientists and engineers. As a result of this stellar work force, strong economic growth, and the creation of high-paying jobs, San Jose also placed first in the 2012 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index.

      Recent announcements include Samsung Semiconductor's expansion of its research and development campus and FICO's plans to relocate from Minneapolis to San Jose to be closer to Silicon Valley's engineering talent pool. "By operating from the Silicon Valley, we can more readily build upon our company's deep talent pool, collaborate with other big thinkers in the world's premier technology hub, and help our customers compete more effectively in the era of big data," says FICO's president and CEO William Lansing.
    • 8.
    • Knoxville
    • TN
    • 698,030
    • 53
    • 9.
    • Fort Worth-Arlington (METROPOLITAN DIVISION)
    • TX
    • 2,136,022
    • 58
    • 10.
    • Dallas-Plano-Irving (METROPOLITAN DIVISION)
    • TX
    • 4,235,751
    • 58
    • 11.
    • San Antonio-New Braunfels
    • TX
    • 2,142,508
    • 60
    • 12.
    • Tulsa
    • OK
    • 937,478
    • 66
    • 13.
    • McAllen-Edinburg-Mission
    • TX
    • 774769
    • 68
    • 14.
    • Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill
    • NC-SC
    • 1,758,038
    • 69
    • 15.
    • New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner
    • LA
    • 1167764
    • 74
    • 16.
    • Omaha-Council Bluffs
    • NE-IA
    • 865,350
    • 80
    • 17.
    • El Paso
    • TX
    • 800,647
    • 84
    • 18.
    • New York-White Plains-Wayne (METROPOLITAN DIVISION)
    • NY-NJ
    • 11,576,251
    • 92
    • 19.
    • Denver-Aurora-Broomfield
    • CO
    • 2,543,482
    • 96
    • 20.
    • Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick
    • MD
    • 1,205,162
    • 40
    • Washington DC Major industries in the Bethesda MSA include telecommunications, energy, technology, defense, aerospace, and healthcare. Both the National Naval Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health are located in Bethesda. Also headquartered here is Lockheed Martin, a global aerospace and security firm that conducts cutting-edge research and development and works closely with the federal government on major projects.

      Bethesda is top-ranked for its educated, highly skilled work force. For example, the city has one of the highest per capita concentrations of doctorate degrees in the country. It ranked second in education according to Forbes 2012 "Best Places for Business and Careers" report. In March 2013, the city's unemployment rate was 5.1 percent.

      Located in Montgomery County, Maryland, Bethesda is one of the most important economic drivers in the Greater Washington area. In May 2013 Montgomery County reported its work force had increased by nearly 25,000 jobs since 2010, a 3.9 percent growth rate. About 20 percent of these new jobs were in professional, scientific, and technical services, making these sectors the county's top job gainers. Companies that added the most jobs in Bethesda include Capital One (300 jobs) and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation (200 jobs).
    • 21.
    • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City (METROPOLITAN DIVISION)
    • CA
    • 1,776,095
    • 99
    • 22.
    • Baton Rouge
    • LA
    • 802,484
    • 102
    • 23.
    • Albany-Schenectady-Troy
    • NY
    • 870,716
    • 113
    • 24.
    • Salt Lake City
    • UT
    • 1,124,197
    • 115
    • 25.
    • Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin
    • TN
    • 1,589,934
    • 117
    • 26.
    • Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (METROPOLITAN DIVISION)
    • WA
    • 2,644,584
    • 119
    • 27.
    • Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown
    • NY
    • 670,301
    • 127
    • 28.
    • Louisville-Jefferson County
    • KY-IN
    • 1,283,566
    • 129
    • 29.
    • Akron
    • OH
    • 703,200
    • 161
    • 30.
    • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington
    • MN-WI
    • 3,279,833
    • 162

Leading Locations for 2013 Results

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