New Rankings of Top American Metropolitans Show that Innovationand Quality of Life are Strong Predictors of Growth
Heartland Forward releases its annual report of America’s Most Dynamic Metropolitans
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – American metropolitans that embrace innovation, invest in outdoor recreation and attract employers that lift an area’s overall quality of life are among the most dynamic in today’s post-COVID economy, according to new rankings released today by Heartland Forward.
Most Dynamic Metropolitans 2022 ranks 382 metros nationwide to determine those communities that are leading in categories including employment, income, economic production and the ability to start and scale young firms. This index captures both historic and forward-looking indicators enabling cities to evaluate policies impacting local economic performance.
Top 25 Metropolitans Areas in the United States for 2022:
1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, (Silicon Valley)
2. Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana
3. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California
4. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
5. The Villages, Florida
6. Midland, Texas
7. Boulder, Colorado
8. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
9. Provo-Orem, Utah
10. St. George, Utah
11. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee
12. Logan, Utah-Idaho
13. Reno, Nevada,
14. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington
15. Bend, Oregon
16. Ocean City, New Jersey
17. Punta Gorda, Florida
18. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
19. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
20. Boise City, Idaho,
21. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
22. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts
23. Salt Lake City, Utah
24. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida
25. Fort Collins, Colorado
The research also features an interactive map, which allows users to analyze the data that makes up the metros’ rankings.
Zooming in on the Heartland
Three heartland metros were ranked in the Top 10 this year, and several experienced significant growth including:
● Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana: This up-and-comer has been steadily marching its way toward the top for a few years now. It ranked 356 in 2020, jumped 275 spots to become 81st overall in 2021, and now has taken the second spot overall in 2022. Coined the RV capital of the world, this metro manufactures 80% of the world’s recreation vehicles and it has been a boom town since the pandemic triggered a surge in RV demand. With a population just a little over 200,000 in 2021, Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana has an impressive five-year average annual pay (2016-2021) at 40.1%, which is the fifth fastest growth out of all metros.
● Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas: With an astonishing medium- and short-term real GDP growth (31.2% and 10.5% respectively), this tech hamlet rises to the top as the best-performing heartland tech hub of all and fourth overall. Fast-paced wage growth driven by high demand for skilled workers and an influx of high-tech companies moving HQs from California to Austin are just two drivers of the metro’s economic growth.
● Midland, Texas: This metro rebounded from 38th place to settle in sixth, courtesy of a recovery in oil prices and resurgence of exploration. However, the upturn in energy fortunes has not translated to a commensurate surge in jobs and overall economic activity in the metro. Producers have redirected much of the improved cash flow towards debt reduction and share repurchases rather than tapping new reservoirs. Nevertheless, Midland saw job growth of 9.1% from June 2021 to June 2022—best across all metros—and even surpassed Silicon Valley with the highest per capita income when adjusted for regional price parity.
● The comeback of large heartland metros: There was significant movement and growth among large metropolitans in the middle of the country. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee jumped 84 places (95th in 2021, 11th in 2022); Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan leapt 123 places (234th to 111th), Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin advanced 97 places (218th to 121st), Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama improved 96 places (228th to 132nd), and Memphis, Tennessee-Mississippi-Arkansas moved 84 spots (219th to 135th).
● Innovation hubs continue to dominate while new metros are becoming recognized for their investments in technology: The two Northern California metros, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, again rank first and third, respectively, in 2022. Additionally, the Seattle and Boston metros placed in the Top 25, with each finishing in the Top 15 for young-firm knowledge intensity – a measure of innovative capacity for young companies. Two of the nation’s burgeoning innovation hubs also ranked high: the innovation engine that is Austin, Texas, has risen to fourth in our current rankings, while the Miami metro advanced from 140th in 2021 to 30th in 2022. The most surprising success story may be the re-emergence of two Midwestern metros that were on the forefront of American innovation in the 20th century: Detroit, which jumped from 234th in 2021 to 111th in 2022, and Chicago, which leapt from 218th to 121st.
● Outdoor Recreation hubs are still prioritized but geographically have changed. The 2021 iteration of this report highlighted the success of smaller metropolitans offering direct access to the outdoors. These areas were again successful in our 2022 index. However, the Western metros that had jumped up the rankings from 2020 to 2021 have now stabilized or fallen slightly. Meanwhile, Southeastern metros located near major outdoor amenities experienced significant jumps. Many Western metros are still performing very well, but their short-term growth numbers are not as strong as last year. One reason is that they weathered the early pandemic so well but haven’t continued their meteoric growth as it waned. For example, Provo-Orem, Utah ranked 12th last year in short-term GDP growth, up 1.5% from 2019 to 2020. However, its 8.3 % GDP growth from 2020 to 2021 was only good enough for 36th.
Ross DeVol, President and CEO of Heartland Forward said: “This year’s edition of the report highlights the dynamism of metropolitans that focus on innovation and quality of life. Smaller metros that offer access to high-quality outdoor amenities continue to perform well, and America’s innovation hubs are mainstays in the upper echelon of our rankings. But from a larger perspective this report also tells the story of the pandemic and its aftermath: our data indicates that the past two years brought very different economic conditions than 2020. Only seven metros experienced positive job growth from 2019 to 2020, but 367 posted gains from 2020 to 2021. And while inflation has hampered economic recovery from the 2020 recession, 357 metros still added jobs from June 2021 to June 2022.”
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