Powered by a cluster of high-tech employers, Provo, Utah, has seized the number-one spot in the latest edition of the Best-Performing Cities index. It is joined at the top of the 2008 rankings by other growing metro areas in Utah, Texas, Washington, Alabama and the Carolinas.
This year's rankings of where America's jobs are being created and sustained shows the impact of a broad rebound in the technology sector, along with strong activity in exports and energy production.
Several metros that once dominated the rankings fell due to a sharp downturn in their housing and construction markets; locations in Florida and California took particularly sharp hits. Cities that depend on industry and manufacturing also continue to show a steady long-term decline. The lowest performers on this year's index once again come from the industrial Midwest, with nine of the lowest-ranked cities found in Michigan or Ohio.
Among the nation's 200 largest metros, these are the top 10 performers of 2008 (with their 2007 rankings in parentheses):
1. Provo-Orem, Utah (8)
2. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina (10)
3. Salt Lake City, Utah (18)
4. Austin-Round Rock, Texas (20)
5. Huntsville, Alabama (16)
6. Wilmington, North Carolina (2)
7. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (7)
8. Tacoma, Washington (50)
9. Olympia, Washington (37 in the 2007 ranking of small metros)
10. Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina (12)
Among America's 20 largest cities, Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas, posted the best performance of 2008. Previous standouts Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California, and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona, both experienced significant declines, largely due to their housing markets.
In a separate ranking of 124 small metros, Midland, Texas, came out on top, besting last year's number-one performer, Bend, Oregon. Like other booming Texas towns, Midland is enjoying a strong boost from oil and gas production.
Each year, the Best-Performing Cities index ranks U.S. metros based on economic growth. It includes both long-term and short-term measurements of employment and salary growth, plus indicators of high-tech output.