Highlights for 2013

What critical factors determine which U.S. metros are thriving or merely surviving? Which places possess the traits that will lead to success? Our annual Best-Performing Cities report provides a fact-based, comprehensive metric system across metropolitan areas that highlight the job, wage, and technology trends that shape current and future prospects. This year, technology and energy were the forces powering this year's top performers.

Technology and energy were the main forces behind the top performers in this year's "Best-Performing Cities" report. Growth in both sectors propelled several metros into the top ranks and kept some perennial favorites in the mix.

Of course, tech firms didn't just fall from the sky; the leading tech metros cultivated these assets through indigenous innovation and strategic recruitment. Some were successful despite being high-cost, high-regulation locations (think San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; and Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA) because they have developed critical masses of R&D assets and infrastructure that make it easier to innovate. Other tech centers are capturing more of their locally-generated innovation and filling in the missing ingredients as needed (think Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX, Raleigh-Cary, NC, and Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO).

Even five years ago, few would have believed the extent of the shale oil and gas revolution taking place in the United States. Technological advancements such as horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing have altered the energy landscape of North America and potentially the world. The indirect effects of this boom helped place Fargo, ND-MN, and Bismarck, ND, among the Top 5 small cities. World-class energy clusters such as Houston-Sugarland-Baytown, TX, to more remote Greeley, CO, are also witnessing significant ripple effects across their economies from this oil and gas exploration renaissance.

Key Findings
  • Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX, reclaimed the top spot as our 2013 Best-Performing Large City. Austin's technology base is highly diversified and has been performing admirably.
  • Texas, which has both technology and energy assets, claimed three of the Top 10 and seven of the Top 25 large cities.
  • Colorado and California are each home to four of the Top 25 large cities.
  • Technology hubs dominated with 13 of them in the Top 25, and technology growth helped propel several other metros into the top ranks.
  • The shale oil and gas boom thrust nine other metros into the Top 25.
  • Columbia, MO, was the Best-Performing Small City with the help of high-tech industries like telecommunications, which saw employment grow by 60 percent from 2007 to 2012.
  • Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV, recorded the biggest gain among the large cities, vaulting 100 spots.
How Can This Information Be Used?

We pinpoint where employment is stable and expanding, wages and salaries are increasing, and economies and businesses are thriving. Armed with this knowledge, businesses, investors, industry associations, development agencies and government officials, academics, and public-policy groups can assess, monitor, and gain insight into each metro's performance relative to the rest. We also provide benchmarking data that can inform approaches to improving a region's performance. Moreover, the index provides a tool for understanding consumer markets and business opportunities as communities recover from the financial crisis and Great Recession. Identifying the regions that weathered the downturn best and are recovering fastest reveals a range of ideas and strategies for seizing opportunity and keeping risk at bay.