This article is a continuation of the series of articles including, Hickory vs the 10 worst MSAs in the U.S., Hickory Metro's Economy versus similar U.S. MSAs and Hickory Metro's Economy versus North Carolina MSAs. Here, I compare all of the Metropolitan Statistical Areas that are the 10 best in the Milken Institute rankings. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA would rank as the eighth largest MSA in this analysis.
The MSA populations in this analysis range from a high end of the nation's 15th largest market (Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington) 3,344,813 to a low end of the nation's 182nd largest market (Olympia, Washington) with a population of 238,555. Population growth, since 2000 shows that Raleigh, North Carolina was the biggest gainer in this group at 36.60%, while Seattle, Washington was the lowest, adding a respectable 9.89% more to its population. Three of the cities in this list grew by more than 30% and another two were over the 20% mark. What is obvious from this list is that people will seek out cities that have excellent economic opportunities and the study of the bottom 10 Milken cities shows that the highest growth rate city in that group (Holland, Michigan at 8.77%) grew at a rate more than 1% lower than the lowest rate of the top 10 cities (Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington at 9.89%).
"The Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners Best Performing Cities Index ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. The components include job, wage and salary, and technology growth. The full report can be downloaded here."
15 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA Milken rank - 8 Unemp = 8.8% Pop. 3,344,813
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 109.11 Rank: 19
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 114.78 Rank: 16
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 137.66 Rank: 8
Population Growth since 2000 - +9.89%
Largest City – Seattle - As of April 1, 2009, the city had a municipal population of 602,000
Seattle is home to one of the United States' most respected public research universities, the University of Washington, as well as its professional and continuing Education unit, University of Washington Educational Outreach. A study by Newsweek International in 2006 cited UW as the twenty-second best university in the world. Seattle also has a number of smaller private universities including Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University, both founded by religious groups; universities aimed at the working adult, like City University and Antioch University; and a number of arts colleges, such as Cornish College of the Arts and The Art Institute of Seattle. In 2001, Time magazine selected Seattle Central Community College as community college of the year, stating the school "pushes diverse students to work together in small teams"
Tacoma's institutions of higher learning include the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma Community College, Bates Technical College, The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus, Northwest Baptist Seminary, and University of Washington Tacoma. Pacific Lutheran University is located in Parkland, just south of the city; nearby Lakewood is the home of Clover Park Technical College and Pierce College. Bellevue is home to Bellevue College (BC) and City University.
Economy and Employers -
Six companies on the 2008 Fortune 500 list of the United States' largest companies, based on total revenue, are headquartered in Seattle: financial services company Washington Mutual (#97), Internet retailer Amazon.com (#171), coffee chain Starbucks (#277), department store Nordstrom (#299), insurance company Safeco Corporation (#388), and global logistics firm Expeditors International (#458). However, in April 2008, the sale of Safeco to Liberty Mutual was announced and in September 2008 Washington Mutual was seized by the FDIC and was sold to JPMorgan Chase. Other Fortune 500 companies popularly associated with Seattle are based in nearby Puget Sound cities. Warehouse club chain Costco Wholesale Corp. (#29), the largest company in Washington, is based in Issaquah. Microsoft (#44) and Nintendo of America are located in Redmond. Weyerhaeuser, the forest products company (#147), is based in Federal Way. Finally, Bellevue is home to truck manufacturer PACCAR (#169) and to international mobile telephony giant T-Mobile's U.S. subsidiary T-Mobile USA.
Prior to moving its headquarters to Chicago, aerospace manufacturer Boeing (#27) was the largest company based in Seattle. Its largest division is still headquartered in nearby Renton, and the company has large aircraft manufacturing plants in Everett and Renton, so it remains the largest private employer in the Seattle metropolitan area. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced a desire to spark a new economic boom driven by the biotechnology industry in 2006. Major redevelopment of the South Lake Union neighborhood is underway in an effort to attract new and established biotech companies to the city, joining biotech companies Corixa (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline), Immunex (now part of Amgen), Trubion, and ZymoGenetics. Vulcan Inc., the holding company of billionaire Paul Allen, is behind most of the development projects in the region. While some see the new development as an economic boon, others have criticized Nickels and the Seattle City Council for pandering to Allen's interests at taxpayers' expense. Also in 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked Seattle among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation for climates favorable to business expansion. In 2005, Forbes ranked Seattle as the most expensive American city for buying a house based on the local income levels. Alaska Airlines, operating a hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, maintains headquarters in the city of SeaTac, next to the airport.
Tacoma is the home of several international companies, such as Russell Investments and Labor Ready, Inc.(now named True Blue Inc.) U.S. Oil and Refining operates an oil refinery on the tide flats in the Port of Tacoma. Built in Tacoma in 1952, it currently refines 39,000 barrels of petroleum per day.
Public Transportation - Sound Transit, trains, buses, lightrail in Puget Sound area... Community Transit, buses in Snohomish County... King County Metro, buses in King County... Pierce Transit, buses in Pierce County
36 Austin-Round Rock, TX MSA Milken rank -4 Unemp = 6.6% Pop. 1,652,602
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 108.92 Rank: 21
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 100.16 Rank: 105
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 106.28 Rank: 52
Population Growth since 2000 - +32.23%
Largest City – Austin - According to the 2009 U.S. Census estimate, Austin had a population of 757,688
Austin is home to The University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest public universities in the country and the flagship institution of The University of Texas System. The university has numerous programs ranking in the top 10 in the nation including the College of Pharmacy, McComb's School of Business, the school of Architecture, the school of Engineering, as well as its Computer Science Program. In addition to these renowned programs the University of Texas is also known for its highly regarded honors programs such as the Plan II Honors Program, Deans Scholars, and the Business Honors Program. Other institutions of higher learning include Austin Community College, Concordia University, Huston-Tillotson University, St. Edward's University, the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, the Acton School of Business, Austin Graduate School of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and a branch of Park University.
Economy and Employers -
Austin is considered to be a major center for high technology. Thousands of graduates each year from the engineering and computer science programs at The University of Texas at Austin provide a steady source of employees that help to fuel Austin's technology and defense industry sectors. The metro Austin area has much lower housing costs than Silicon Valley, but much higher housing costs than many parts of rural Texas. As a result of the high concentration of high-tech companies in the region, Austin was strongly affected by the dot-com boom in the late 1990s and subsequent bust. Austin's largest employers include the Austin Independent School District, the City of Austin, Dell, the United States Federal Government, Freescale Semiconductor (spun off from Motorola in 2004), IBM, St. David's Healthcare Partnership, Seton Healthcare Network, the State of Texas, Texas State University-San Marcos, and the University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas. Other high-tech companies with operations in Austin include 3M Company, Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard, Google, AMD, Applied Materials, Cirrus Logic, Cisco, eBay/PayPal, Hoover's, Inc., Intel, National Instruments, Samsung, Silicon Laboratories, Sun Microsystems and United Devices. The proliferation of technology companies has led to the region's nickname, "the Silicon Hills," and spurred development that greatly expanded the city. The concentration of high-tech companies has led the former American Airlines flight between Austin and San Jose, California to be dubbed the "nerd bird." This route will now be operated by Alaska Airlines effective September 2, 2009.
Southward view of downtown Austin from The Capitol Grounds on 11th Street.
Austin is also emerging as a hub for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. About 85 companies from this industry are based in Austin. The city was ranked by the Milken Institute as the #12 biotech and life science center in the United States.
It is also home to advertising agencies including Omnicom owned GSD&M Idea City and LatinWorks, as well as Dell’s agency of record, WPP Group owned Enfatico.
Whole Foods Market is a grocery store that specializes in organic, local, and natural foods and other goods. It was founded and based in Austin. As of August 25, 2008, Whole Foods has 271 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
In addition to global companies, Austin features a strong network of independent, locally-owned firms and organizations, such as the Austin Independent Business Alliance. The success of these businesses reflects the high level of commitment by the citizens of Austin to preserving the unique spirit of the city and has been tied to the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign.
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) provides public transportation to the city, primarily by bus. Capital Metro is planning to change some routes to "Rapid Lines". The lines will feature 60 ft (18 m) long, train-like high-tech buses. This addition is going to be implemented to help reduce congestion. Capital Metro is also testing a commuter rail system known as Capital MetroRail that was scheduled to open in March 2009. The system was built on existing freight rail lines and will serve downtown Austin, East Austin, North Central Austin, Northwest Austin, and Leander in its first phase. Future expansion could include a line to Manor and another to Round Rock. Capital Metro is also looking into a circulator system of streetcars to connect most of Downtown, the University of Texas, and the 700-acre
49 Salt Lake City, UT MSA Milken rank -193 Unemp = 10.0% Pop. 1,115,692
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 107.38 Rank: 28
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 103.51 Rank: 80
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 109.75 Rank: 37
Population Growth since 2000 - +15.16%
Largest City – Salt lake City - Salt Lake City has a population of 181,698 as of July 1, 2008
Postsecondary educational options in Salt Lake City include the University of Utah, Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, BYU Salt Lake Center, Eagle Gate College, and LDS Business College. There are also many trade and technical schools such as Healing Mountain Massage School and the Utah College of Massage Therapy. The University of Utah is noted for its research and medical programs. It was one of the original four universities to be connected to ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet, in 1969, and was also the site of the first artificial heart transplant in 1982
Economy and Employers -
The modern economy of Salt Lake City is service-oriented. In the past, nearby steel, mining and railroad operations provided a strong source of income with Silver King Coalition Mines, Geneva Steel, Bingham Canyon Mine, and oil refineries. Today the city's major industries are government, trade, transportation, utilities, and professional and business services. The city is known as the "Crossroads of the West" for its central geography in the western United States. As a result, Interstate 15 is a major corridor for freight traffic and the area is host to many regional distribution centers.
Local, state, and federal governments have their largest presence in the city proper itself, and trade, transportation, and utilities also take up a significant portion of employment, with the major employer being the western North America Delta Air Lines hub at Salt Lake City International Airport. Equally significant are the professional and business services, while health services and health educational services also serve as significant areas of employment. Other major employers include the University of Utah, Sinclair Oil Corporation, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Besides its central offices, the LDS Church owns and operates a profit division, Deseret Management Corporation and its subsidiaries, which are headquartered in the city. Other notable firms headquartered in the city include AlphaGraphics, Sinclair Oil Corporation, Zions Bancorporation, Smith's Food and Drug (owned by national grocer Kroger). Notable firms based in the metropolitan area include Arctic Circle Restaurants, FranklinCovey, and Overstock.com. Metropolitan Salt Lake was also once the headquarters of Kentucky Fried Chicken (the first ever KFC is located in South Salt Lake), American Stores, the Skaggs Companies, and ZCMI, one of the first-ever department stores; it is currently owned by Macy's, Inc. Former ZCMI stores now operate under the Macy's label. Suburban Salt Lake was also the first location for Sears Grand (at the Jordan Landing shopping center in West Jordan).
Since Utah is one of seven states that allow the establishment of commercially-owned industrial banks, the vast majority of industrial banks in the U.S. have established their headquarters in the Salt Lake City area. High-tech firms with a large presence in the suburbs include e-Bay, Unisys, Siebel, Micron, L-3 Communications and 3M.
Other economic activities include tourism, conventions, and major suburban call centers. Tourism has increased since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and many hotels and restaurants were built for the events. The convention industry has expanded since the construction of the Salt Palace convention center in the late 1990s, which hosts trade shows and conventions, including the annual Outdoor Retailers meeting and Novell's annual BrainShare convention.
In 2006, the largest potato producer in Idaho, the United Potato Growers of America, announced that it would re-locate its headquarters to Salt Lake City, citing its need for a large international airport, being that Salt Lake City International is the 22nd busiest in the world in terms of combined freight and passengers.
In 2005, it was found the downtown area was experiencing rapid population growth. The number of residential units in the central business district has increased by 80% since 1995, and is forecast to nearly double in the next decade. Office vacancy rates are low in the downtown region. Construction of the Gateway District, light rail, and planned commuter rail service have supported the revival of downtown.
Salt Lake City's mass transit service is operated by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and includes an extensive bus system, light rail, and a commuter rail line. The 19-mile (31 km) light rail system, called TRAX, consists of two lines originating downtown at the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub; one line, which opened in 1999, heads south to Sandy and the other, opened in 2001, splits east to the University of Utah. Daily ridership averages 45,400 (as of the second quarter of 2008), significantly above original projections, and is the eleventh-most ridden light rail system in the country, but also the fourth-most ridden system by mile. The system has a total of 28 stations, 17 of them being located in Salt Lake City proper. The commuter rail system, FrontRunner, opened on April 26, 2008 and extends from the Intermodal Hub north to Pleasant View.
UTA plans to complete four additional TRAX lines (one of which will connect to the airport), as well as FrontRunner south to Provo, by 2014 as part of its FrontLines 2015 project. These extensions were made possible by a sales tax hike for road improvements, light rail, and commuter rail that was approved by voters on November 7, 2006. In addition, a $500 million letter of intent was signed by the Federal Transit Administration for all four of the planned TRAX extensions in addition to the FrontRunner extension to Provo. FrontRunner South and three of these four TRAX lines are currently under construction, with the other expected to begin construction in 2009.
UTA's bus system extends throughout the Wasatch Front from Brigham City in the north to Santaquin in the south and as far west as Grantsville. UTA also operates routes to the ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons during the ski season (typically November to April). Approximately 60,000 people ride the bus daily, although ridership has reportedly declined since TRAX was constructed.
50 Raleigh-Cary, NC Milken rank - 2 Unemp = 9.1% Pop. 1,088,765
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 113.07 Rank: 11
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 105.86 Rank: 11
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 101.98 Rank: 83
Population Growth since 2000 - A007+36.60%
Largest city – Raleigh - - (Capital of North Carolina) population on July 1, 2008 was 392,552 (a 42% increase from the 2000 Census), making Raleigh the 8th fastest growing city in the United States
Higher Education – (Public) - North Carolina State University, Wake Technical Community College, (Private)- Meredith College, Peace College, Shaw University, St. Augustine's College, In addition, the Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law has announced that it will move to downtown Raleigh from the nearby town of Buies Creek by 2009. (Private, for profit) - ECPI College of Technology, School of Communication Arts, Strayer University, Mitchell's Hair Styling Academy, The Emerald Academy - A Paul Mitchell Partner School
Economy and Employers
The State of North Carolina. Raleigh's industrial base includes electrical, medical, electronic and telecommunications equipment; clothing and apparel; food processing; paper products; and pharmaceuticals. Raleigh is part of North Carolina's Research Triangle, one of the country's largest and most successful research parks and a major center in the United States for high-tech and biotech research, as well as advanced textile development. The city is a major retail shipping point for eastern North Carolina and a wholesale distributing point for the grocery industry.
Public Transportation -
Public transportation in and around Raleigh is provided by Capital Area Transit (CAT), which operates 38 bus fixed routes and a historic trolley line within the city, and also by Triangle Transit. From 1995 the cornerstone of Triangle Transit's long-term plan was a 28-mile rail corridor from northeast Raleigh, through downtown Raleigh, Cary, and Research Triangle Park, to Durham using DMU technology. There were proposals to extend this corridor 7 miles to Chapel Hill with light rail technology. However, in 2006 Triangle Transit deferred implementation indefinitely when the Federal Transit Administration declined to fund the program due to low ridership projections.
70 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX MSA Milken rank - 7 Unemp = 9.4% Pop. 710,514
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 118.39 Rank: 3
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 119.99 Rank: 9
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 200.93 Rank: 1
Population Growth since 2000 - +24.77%
Largest City – McAllen - The population was 106,414 at the 2000 Census
University of Texas–Pan American (approximately 17,000 students as of August 2007) in Edinburg, South Texas College (approximately 20,000 students spread across their 5 campus in Rio Grande City and Weslaco)
Economy and Employers -
Prior to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement, economic activity in McAllen was centered around agriculture and petroleum.
A Foreign trade zone is located on the southwest side of the city. In addition to the industrial activity, there is a vibrant retail sector that is dependent on purchases made by wealthier middle and upper middle-class consumers. For the past couple of years, McAllen's economy has been improving and has become one of the best improving economies in the United States. Also, the real estate market has been growing in the metro area. In a Forbes article on the internet, McAllen was number one in the best real estate markets in the United States. Even when the rest of the country has been affected be the financial crisis, McAllen hasn't been affected yet, instead, it is still growing.
Public Transportation for the City of McAllen began in June 1997. In the beginning, McAllen’s public transportation system, McAllen Express (ME), was administered by the Lower Rio Grande Development Council. Since 2005, McAllen Express Transit (MET) has been operated as a Department of the City of McAllen. MET now has seven fixed routes serving residents and visitors of McAllen. MET operates six days out of the week, 13 hours per day. In 2003, changes in the census affected McAllen’s urbanized area, and MET lost $1.5 million in operating funds. Nonetheless, the City of McAllen has worked diligently to ensure that service levels are maintained, and continues to plan for service improvements. Ridership in 1997 totaled 42,578 passenger trips. The first full year of operation was in 1998, and the ridership recorded for that year was 201,506 passenger trips. In 2008 McAllen Express Transit accomplished record high numbers in ridership, totalling 412,151 passenger trips, accounting for more that twice the ridership recorded in 1998.
81 Charleston-Summerville SC MSA Milken rank -10 Unemp = 9.4% Pop. 630,100
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 108.38 Rank: 23
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 111.25 Rank: 24
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 115.73 Rank: 25
Population Growth since 2000 - +14.78%
Largest City – Charleston - The population was estimated to be 118,492 in 2007
Higher Education –
Public institutions of higher education in Charleston include the College of Charleston (the nation's thirteenth oldest university) and the Citadel (the state's military college). The city is home to a law school, the Charleston School of Law, as well as a medical school, the Medical University of South Carolina. Charleston is also home to the Roper Hospital School of Practical Nursing and Trident Technical College, and branches of Webster University are also located in the city. Graduate degrees from South Carolina’s top public universities are available in Charleston through the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Charleston is also the location for the only college in the country that offers bachelors degrees in the building arts, The American College of the Building Arts. The newest school to come to Charleston is The Art Institute of Charleston located downtown on North Market Street.
Economy and Employers -
Charleston is a major tourist destination, with a considerable number of luxury hotels, hotel chains, inns, and bed and breakfasts and a large number of award-winning restaurants and quality shopping. Charleston is becoming a prime location for information technology jobs and corporations, most notably Blackbaud, Modulant, CSS, Benefitfocus, and Google. The aerospace industry is beginning to establish itself with the joint venture plant of Vought and Alenia Aeronautica, where two of the five sections of the Boeing 787 fuselage are fabricated and assembled. Charleston is also an important art destination, named a top 25 arts destination by AmericanStyle magazine.
The city is an important port, boasting the second largest container seaport on the East Coast and the fourth largest container seaport in North America.The Port of Charleston consists of five terminals. Three are on the Harbor and the other two are on the Cooper River just north of Charleston's bustling harbor. The port is ranked number one in customer satisfaction across North America by supply chain executives. Port activity, behind tourism, is the leading source of Charleston's revenue.
Charleston is the primary medical center for the eastern portion of the state. The city has several major hospitals located in the downtown area alone: Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center (MUSC), Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, and Roper Hospital. MUSC is the state's first school of medicine, the largest medical university in the state, and the sixth oldest continually operating school of medicine in the United States. The downtown medical district is experiencing rapid growth of biotechnology and medical research industries coupled with substantial expansions of all the major hospitals. Additionally, more expansions are planned or underway at several other major hospitals located in other portions of the city and the metropolitan area: Bon Secours-St Francis Xavier Hospital, Trident Medical Center, and East Cooper Regional Medical Center.
The city is also served by a bus system, operated by the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA). The majority of the urban area is served by regional fixed route buses which are also equipped with bike racks as part of the system's Rack & Ride program. CARTA offers connectivity to historic downtown attractions and accommodations with DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle) trolley buses, and it offers curbside pickup for disabled passengers with its Tel-A-Ride buses.
Rural parts of the city and metropolitan area are served by a different bus system, operated by Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Rural Transportation Management Association (BCD-RTMA).
102 Provo-Orem, UT MSA Milken rank -1 Unemp = 4.8% Pop. 493,306
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 116.49 Rank: 5
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 109.54 Rank: 33
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 105.80 Rank: 55
Population Growth since 2000 - +30.93%
Largest City – Provo - estimated population of 540,820 residents
Provo is home to Brigham Young University, a private university operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU (occasionally referred to as "BYU-Provo" after Ricks College became BYU-Idaho in 2001) is the second largest private university in the country, with more than 34,000 students. Utah Valley University and Stevens-Henager College are also located in Orem.
Economy and Employers -
Five Provo companies are listed on Inc.com's Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the United States. The largest, DieCuts With a View, is ranked number 1403 and has revenues of $26.2 million. Other companies on the list are Atlas Marketing Group (ranked 1035, with $19.6 million of revenue), VitalSmarts (ranked 1501, with $17.9 million in revenue), Heritage Web Solutions (ranked 22, with $8.2 million in revenue), and Connect Public Relations (ranked 3694, with $6.1 million in revenue).
MediaWorks Inc., one of Utah's premiere film and video production companies, was founded in Provo in 1998 and continues to provide production services to companies throughout the United States.
Provo is home to more than three dozen restaurants, and a couple of shopping centers. The Provo Towne Centre, a shopping mall, operates in Provo. Within the past two years, a number of small shops, music venues, and boutiques have popped up in downtown, along Center Street and University Avenue. Downtown has also begun regularly hosting "gallery strolls", held every first Friday of the month, featuring local artists.
Utah Transit Authority (UTA) bus system. UTA's commuter rail service, FrontRunner, is expected to be extended to Provo from Salt Lake City by 2012
130Huntsville, AL MSA Milken rank -5 Unemp = 7.2% Pop. 386,632
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 107.52 Rank: 26
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 109.67 Rank: 32
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 116.31 Rank: 24
Population Growth since 2000 - +12.84%
Largest City – Huntsville - the largest city in the area with a population of 168,132 people
Huntsville's higher education institutions include Alabama A&M University, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Oakwood University, J.F. Drake State Technical College.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville is the largest university serving the greater Huntsville area. The research-intensive university has more than 7,400 students. Approximately half of the university’s graduates earn a degree in engineering or science, making the university one of the largest producers of engineers and physical scientists in Alabama. Oakwood University, founded in 1896, is a Seventh-day Adventist university and a member institution of the United Negro College Fund. It is one of the nation's leading producers of successful Black applicants to medical schools.
Numerous colleges and universities have satellite locations or extensions in Huntsville: Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, Calhoun Community College - Calhoun Community College at Cummings Research Park, Calhoun Community College at Redstone Arsenal, Athens State University. Georgia Institute of Technology, Faulkner University, Columbia College, Virginia College, Florida Institute of Technology, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. One of two local hospitals, Huntsville Hospital also has an accredited school of radiologic technology.
Economy and Employers -
Huntsville's main economic influence is derived from aerospace and military technology. Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park (CRP), and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center comprise the main hubs for the area's technology-driven economy. CRP is the second largest research park in the United States and the fourth largest in the world, and is over 38 years old. Huntsville is also home for commercial technology companies such as the network access company ADTRAN, computer graphics company Intergraph and design and manufacturer of IT infrastructure Avocent. Telecommunications provider Deltacom, Inc. and copper tube manufacturer and distributor Wolverine Tube are also based in Huntsville. Cinram manufactures and distributes 20th Century Fox DVDs and Blu-ray Discs out of their Huntsville plant. Sanmina-SCI also has a large presence in the area. Forty-two Fortune 500 companies have operations in Huntsville.
In 2005, Forbes Magazine named the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area as 6th best place in the nation for doing business, and number one in terms of the number of engineers per total employment. In 2006, Huntsville dropped to 14th; the prevalence of engineers was not considered in the 2006 ranking.
Huntsville is fast becoming a regional retail center. There are many strip malls and "power centers" throughout the city. Huntsville has two malls—Madison Square Mall, built in 1984, and Parkway Place, built in 2002 on the site of the former Parkway City Mall. The city also has a lifestyle center called Bridge Street Town Centre, built in 2007, in Cummings Research Park. Another "live, work, and play" center is being constructed on the former site of the Heart of Huntsville Mall. It is to be called Constellation with ground breaking in Fall 2007 and scheduled completion by 2010.
Public transit in Huntsville is run by the city's Department of Parking and Public Transit. The Huntsville Shuttle runs 11 fixed routes throughout the city, mainly around downtown and major shopping areas like Memorial Parkway and University Drive and has recently expanded some of the buses to include bike racks on the front for a trial program. There is also a Tourist Trolley that makes stops at tourist attractions and shopping centers.
The North Alabama Railroad Museum in Chase maintains a line once owned by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N). The museum runs weekend tourist rides along a short track in Northeast Madison County. The origin of these rides was once the smallest Union Station in the United States when it served the predecessor to L&N and the predecessor to the Norfolk and Western Railroad.
145 Wilmington, NC Milken rank - 6 Unemp = 10.3% Pop. 339,511
5-yr Job Growth (02-06) 115.90 Rank: 8
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 111.26 Rank: 23
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 148.44 Rank: 4
Population Growth since 2000 - +23.67%
A July 1, 2008 United States Census Bureau estimate places the population at 100,192
Higher Education –
University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Cape Fear Community College, Shaw University satellite campus
Economy and Employers
Wilmington's industrial base includes electrical,medical,electronic and telecommunications equipment; clothing and apparel; food processing; paper products; and pharmaceuticals. Wilmington is part of North Carolina's Research coast,one of the Country's largest and most successful research parts and major center in the United States. Also important to Wilmington's economy is tourism and film production. Economists have forecast growth in the Greater Wilmington area to be the fastest in the state between 2004–2010, averaging 7%.
Located on the Cape Fear River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, Wilmington is a sizable seaport, including private marine terminals and the North Carolina State Ports Authority's Port of Wilmington. A major international seaport, the North Carolina International Port, is being planned down the river in Southport.
Public Transportation –
Public transit in the area is provided by the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, which operates fixed bus routes, shuttles, and a free downtown trolley under the brand name Wave Transit.
182 Olympia, WA MSA Milken rank - 9 Unemp = 8.0% Pop. 238,555
5-yr Job Growth(02-06) 109.45 Rank: 18
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth Score: 108.70 Rank: 36
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2002-2007) Score: 112.51 Rank: 33
Population Growth since 2000 - +15.05%
Largest City - Olympia - The population was 42,514 at the 2000 census
Olympia has a number of institutions of higher learning, including The Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, and St. Martin's University in adjacent Lacey, Washington.
Economy and Employers
Olympia is the capital city of the U.S. state of Washington and the county seat of Thurston County. Each year the Olympia Film Society (OFS) produces a nationally-recognized film festival and fosters film and video education in Olympia. It also shows independent, classic and international films year-round at the art-deco Capitol Theater. A mostly volunteer-powered organization, OFS supports and presents a variety of culture events, including All Freakin' Night, an all-night horror film screening with a cult following.
Area companies in growth segments include Dart Containers Inc., Albany International Corp., Big Toys Inc., and Amtech Corp.
Compared to other regions in the state, Olympia and Thurston County are home to a relatively small number of technology companies. To attract them, economic development officials promoted the area's telecommunication infrastructure, low property price, and educated workforce. In 2004 Univera Inc., a biotechnology firm, relocated to Thurston County from Colorado. Other recent additions to the area are Reach One, an Internet service provider, and Fast Transact, a processor of credit card transactions.
Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and the surrounding area are primarily served by Intercity Transit, more commonly referred to as "IT" by locals. Routes from other transit services such as Grays Harbor Transit, Mason Transit, and the Tacoma/Lakewood Express with Pierce Transit. Intercity Transit maintains a free shuttle route called "Dash". Dash runs from the Capitol Campus to the Farmers Market at the far edge of downtown.
The Hound thinks we really need to study the success of these cities and see where their characteristics can fit into Hickory's plans for the future.
These successful Metro areas are well spread out through the United States, but the bad news for Hickory is that the Milken ratings list three of the best performing as being in the Carolinas (Raleigh #2, Wilmington #6, and Charleston #10). In my opinion, that shows that we are underperforming. None of the listed cities are in the Northeast or Midwest. None of the cities are in California. Besides the three in the Carolinas, two are in Texas, two are in Utah, two are in Washington, and one is in Alabama.
The Unemployment rate of all but one of these cities (Wilmington) is at or below the National average of 9.4%. Provo, Salt Lake City, and Austin have unemployment rates below 7% and Huntsville, Alabama is at 7.2%. During this recession, the vast majority of areas in the country would die to see numbers like that.
There are certainly factors that it will be impossible for our city to emulate. Four of the cities (Austin, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, and Olympia) are the capitals of their state. Three (Seattle-Tacoma, Charleston, and Wilmington) are major international ports. And McAllen enjoys a unique situation, because of its geographical location on the border of Mexico, which allows it to take advantage of its status of being a Foreign Trade Zone.
What I believe we should study is the Commercial characteristics and Cultural Amenities of these cities and how they are addressing needs that are relevant to the 21st century. Everyone of these cities is addressing their Public Transportation needs. They all have working and viable Bus Systems. Three cities (Seattle-Tacoma, Salt Lake City, and Provo) have viable Light Rail systems. Austin is in the final stage of implementing a rail system and Raleigh is looking to soon establish their own Light Rail system. These are important steps needed to address rapidly growing populations, because not addressing commuter traffic concerns will definitely have an immediate negative impact on fast growing communities. Think of the traffic congestion in Raleigh and the consequences we have already seen on their traffic system. If Raleigh adds another 36.6% to its population over the next 8 years (as it did over the first eight years of this millenium) think of the implications that will be placed upon their infrastructure.
When looking at the Tech sector of these successful cities, we see that the characteristic of being tech savvy has played a vital role in these cities' success. Five of these MSAs (Seattle-Tacoma, McAllen, Charleston, Huntsville, and Wilmington) are in the top 25 MSAs in the nation when it comes to Income derived from the Tech sector of their economy (Tech GDP). Seattle-Tacoma is synonymous with Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Paul Allen. Austin is known as the "Silicon Hills" and long ago developed a direct connection to "Silicon Valley" in California. Huntsville is a major space technology center. Raleigh has the Research Triangle Park. Salt Lake City was one of the four original sites of what is the modern day internet. Wilmington has and is developing an integral connection with the Entertainment and Film Industry. What is very clear is that High-Tech capacities play a vital role in all of these communities viability.
What is also clear is that these communities have a vast array of cultural offerings. Seattle and Austin are known for music, The Utah area has many outdoor activities to offer, because of venues that were developed for the Winter Olympics a few years ago. Olympia is the home of a major film festival. Charleston, and Wilmington to a lesser extent, has a unique historical history and southern gentile charm that sells itself. These offerings enhance these communities Quality of Life.
The Hound thinks that Hickory needs to put the puzzle together. We certainly have many of the characteristics these cities have to offer. We don't need to copy them, but we can adapt some of the key ingredients to rebrand Hickory into our own unique and significant community.
We don't have a port or access to the ocean, but we can learn from Salt lake City, Provo, and Austin on that account. They are also landlocked like us. Like those cities, Hickory sits at several important geographical and transportational crossroads and should be a vital central location for Western North Carolina. In my opinion that is what caused this city to develop in the first place. Why we lost the meaning and significance of this part of our city's Mission of Existence is beyond me.
As Harry Hipps has stated, we need to develop an entertainment business sector in this city. It would go hand-in hand with our restaurant and retail business sectors and it would appeal to a younger demographic. I have heard the possibilities of a mid-sized concert venue being developed and I think a nice Ampitheatre in the area would have a lot to offer. Just think of people around the region converging on Hickory and spending money in our stores. That seems like a lot better scenario than always having our citizens go to concerts in Charlotte, Asheville, Greensboro, or Greenville, SC and spend money there..
I also hope that the significance of the corridor between Google and Apple won't slip by without being acted upon. We seriously need to address our broadband and Information Technology needs the way that most of these successful communities have. I truly believe that this is a significant part of our "Field of Dreams." If we build it, they will come. All of the successful cities have made relevant contributions to the New World's Creative Economy. These cities have chosen to get out front and lead the way, and as a result they are reaping huge rewards because of the development of their technological sector. I truly believe that we are still in the beginning stages of this process in creating a technical society and there is plenty of room to get on board, but we need to get on board sooner rather than later, or once again we are going to be on the short end of the stick.
The last thing I would like to address in this article, is that it is obvious that a city gains nothing by trying to limit its population growth. Remember all of the times we heard the term "Controlled Growth" bandied about from the late 1990s until last year. I think that most people have now seen the folly that was involved in that endeavor. "Controlled Growth" is what led to the consequences of "No Growth" we have been experiencing during this malaise. Look at these successful and vibrant cities.
Hickory must move past this current quagmire and start developing again. We are still stuck in the last century. If Hickory had grown at the same rate that Raleigh did over the last eight years, then Hickory Proper would now have a population of over 50,000 people and the Metro population would be over 460,000. Just think of all of the development that could have taken place over that time, if we had grown at half the pace Raleigh has. Evidence points to the fact that the cities in our category are dying. Developing Hickory into a sleepy little village is the surest way to destroy the viability of our community. I hope that you will join me in that conclusion and understand that it is time that we must aim our sights toward growth once again.
***The Information above was developed with the help of Wikipedia and the Milken Institute's research called 2008 Best Performing Cities.
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