My second surprise is how far and how fast the Texas cities have dropped. Houston went from #2 in 2015 to #225 this year. Plus, in 2015 there were six Texas cities in the top 20 for overall performance and this year there are none. The rate and depth of the drop indicates just how big the energy sector is in the U.S. For companies looking to expand, now would be a good time to look at Texas. Labor and construction costs are soft and, while far from liquidation prices, there are bargains to be had.
My third surprise is the strength of small to mid-size communities in this year’s report. There are currently 13 small- to mid-sized cities in the top 20 for Economic Strength, while in 2015 there were only 8 in the top 20. That is a 62 percent increase. What’s remarkable is that this growth occurred in communities that are typically lacking in airport accessibility or high rankings in the millennial aged work force. There must be something else that is not quite apparent from the data driving this performance. (I think there is a bigger story here.)