The 15 U.S. Cities That Are Driving the Future

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Jan. 11 2014 9:15 AM

The 15 U.S. Cities That Are Driving the Future

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Dallas has one of the most diverse economies in the U.S.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

The American economy is being reshaped by the booming industries of technology and energy, according to new rankings by the Milken Institute. In the 2013 rankings of America's best performing cities, 13 cities defined by Milken as tech hubs made it into the top 25, while nine could attribute their impressive growth to the energy industry, notably the shale and natural gas renaissance. Milken's ranking is based on data from both long- and short-term growth in jobs, wages, salaries, and technological output.

15. Denver–Aurora–Broomfield, Colorado

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This metro area has a diverse high-tech industry that mixes in telecommunications, aerospace, manufacturing, and energy research. The city does so well partially because of its attractive business climate and friendly government.

The city’s Business Incentive Fund makes it an attractive place for companies like Southwest Airlines (which just opened a new pilot and flight attendant base) and SCL Health Systems (which moved its headquarters to Denver). The Fund’s efforts will result in over 1,600 jobs and $6 million in direct fiscal benefit over the next five years.

14. Nashville–Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, Tennessee

The Music City has something new to sing about, namely some serious job growth. An increase in automobile production added nearly 4,000 jobs in 2012, while tourism reached a record high in 2012. The city has experienced a cultural renaissance thanks to the opening of the Music City Convention Center, the Omni Hotel next door, and an expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame, with a total of 4,100 jobs in restaurants and bars in 2012.

13. Raleigh–Cary, North Carolina

Raleigh has a large, educated workforce, high-profile universities, and low operating costs for businesses. The city has experienced an expansion in the tech industry, fueling growth in a number of other areas. Recently, financial services firms like Fidelity Investments and Credit Suisse have built bases in the area, as well as MetLife, which has plans to build new global technology services hubs.

12. San Antonio–New Braunfels, Texas

Home to one of the largest medical facilities in the nation, San Antonio has seen strong job growth from military medical operations. Ambulatory health-care services created more than 12,000 jobs over the last five years.

Medical isn’t the only thing driving development. San Antonio is also home to the largest oil and gas development in the world in the Eagle Ford Shale. Record drilling levels and high-yield wells are pumping new jobs into energy and related sectors.

The city was ninth in job growth over the last five years. A nationwide restructuring of military bases could lead to many new jobs.

11. Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville, South Carolina

Charleston is quickly becoming an aerospace hub thanks to Boeing, which recently announced a $1 billion expansion that will create 2,000 jobs over the next eight years. 

The state is helping fuel growth as well, as it agreed to provide incentives for upfront expansion costs for Boeing's manufacturing complex. That would create additional jobs, putting the total at 8,000. The state is also updating and improving the port's infrastructure so that it can accommodate larger container ships.

10. Greeley, Colorado

Niobrara shale has created a boomtown in Greeley, Colorado. Noble Energy, which just completed a 65,000 square foot headquarters, is expected to invest another $8 billion in the city over the next five years. In addition to the natural gas and oil boom, wind energy has provided another growth area. Vestas Wind Systems has plans to expand its workforce in Greeley.

9. Boulder, Colorado

The University of Colorado may be Boulder’s top employer, but the city has one of the strongest tech sectors in the nation. Companies like IBM, Level 3 Communications, and Oracle all have strong operations in Boulder, and the city ranks first in the country for density of high-tech startups. 

Expect growth in clean tech, medical devices, aerospace, and health care over the coming years.

7. Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown, Texas

Houston’s growth has been fueled by the boom in oil and gas exploration. Shale gas exploration in particular is creating jobs in multiple areas. It’s led to 10,500 jobs in professional and scientific services, while administrative, machinery, and manufacturing industries have also seen job gains. 

Job growth is the seventh strongest in the country over the last five years, largely because Houston’s energy infrastructure is only getting more developed. Multiple companies are building export terminals, fractionaters, and ethane crackers. Expect a huge increase in engineering and construction jobs as a result.

7. Dallas–Plano–Irving, Texas

Dallas has one of the most diverse economies in the U.S., with strong establishments in tech, aerospace, telecoms, and financial services. Population growth is strong, housing sales are rising, financial services added 5,000 jobs from 2011-12, and employment at corporate headquarters increased by more than 4,000 works over the last five years.

Look for Dallas’s job growth to get even stronger as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Lockheed Martin look to expand their presence.

6. Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, Washington

Seattle has benefitted from a resurgence in commercial aircraft manufacturing, adding 7,000 high-skilled manufacturing jobs in aerospace from 2011 to 2012. With emerging nations getting more prosperous, commercial aircraft will continue to grow, boosting business for Boeing and its 82,000-person Seattle-based workforce. 

Seattle is not a one-trick pony either. The city ranks fifth in tech industry concentration, with both Amazon and Google breaking ground on massive new campuses. The expansion of the workforce has also increased the demand for housing, rising property values, and restoring construction jobs.

5. Salt Lake City, Utah

Job growth over the last year in Salt Lake City is up to fourth in the rankings. It’s a sign of how well this city is doing, thanks to the recruitment of numerous financial services firms (including Goldman Sachs), as well as the healthy growth of start-ups coming out of nearby universities.

The Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (or USTAR), founded by the University of Utah, has become a leader in technology-based development. The healthy growth has created a strong recovery in housing and commercial construction. Outdoor tourism has continued to expand as well, bringing in jobs in leisure and hospitality.

4. San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara, California

With all the talk about Silicon Valley, one might think that San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara would hold onto the No. 1 ranking from last year, but it appears the area is a victim of its own success. Rising housing and business costs are slowing growth. Nonetheless, the area remains the most impressive technology neighborhood in the world.

With a powerful ecosystem of startups, established companies, universities, and investors, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara is able to maintain its tech dominance. The talent pool in the area is deep and, ultimately, that’s what keeps attracting companies.

3. San Francisco–San Mateo–Redwood City, California

With entrepreneurs and tech companies moving from Silicon Valley to the city proper, San Francisco has seen serious growth in GDP (second in 2012) and jobs (third in 2012) in recent years. The influx of residents has risen housing costs and jump-started the construction industry.

2. Provo–Orem, Utah

Provo has had a steady climb in the rankings, jumping from seventh to second this year. With the city capturing the top ranking for job growth in 2012, Provo’s climb looks set to continue. 

The city has a thriving tech sector, anchored by Brigham Young University and software company Novell. Provo is also one of three U.S. cities with Google Fiber, the company’s superfast fiber optic service, which will continue to make Provo an attractive place for tech companies. Add in the new data storage center being built by the National Security Agency and you have a recipe for strong job growth.

1. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas

The top spot goes to the metro area of Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, a rising tech center. Austin came in second with job growth over the last five years, due in large part to a diversified technology base. Homegrown tech companies like Dell, National Instruments, and Flextronics complement incoming companies like Apple and IBM (which both now have large bases in Austin), as well as startups coming out of the University of Texas.

The city is extremely business-friendly with a low tax, low regulation environment that makes it attractive to out-of-state firms. All of the tech hustle and bustle has led to an influx of young professionals, which has led to a boom in construction. 

Austin looks to maintain its high-flying output over the next five years as it focuses on clean technology, data centers, digital media, biosciences, and other industries.

Harrison Jacobs is a writer for Business Insider. Follow him on Twitter.

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