Economic Development

Metro area ranks best in the Midwest

Grand Rapids/Wyoming named 25th best performing city in the U.S. for 2014.

January 16, 2015
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2014 was a year of economic performance so excellent for Grand Rapids and Wyoming that the area was recently named the top-performing city in the Midwest.

Grand Rapids/Wyoming ranked 25th on the list of the “25 Best  Performing Cities” produced annually by The Milken Institute, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based independent economic think tank and nonprofit.

The Grand Rapids/Wyoming area — the only Midwest city to make the top 25 — was selected from the 200 largest cities in the United States.

The top-25 designation was major leap for the Grand Rapids/Wyoming area, which was ranked 48th on last year’s list. The 2014 report noted Grand Rapids and Wyoming as having strong job growth, which was about 7 percent above the national average for 2012-13, as well as recent wage growth, which contributed to the metro area’s improved showing.

“Building on the existing manufacturing base, jobs are beginning to return to the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metro after a sharp drop in employment during the recession. The metro lost more than 10,000 manufacturing positions between 2008 and 2009, and was still slightly below 2008 levels of sector employment in 2013. However, the machinery manufacturing sector added 1,291 jobs between 2008 and 2013, with half of those jobs added in 2013,” the report read.

“The fabricated-metal manufacturing sector also added jobs — 637 in 2013 — and this recent momentum is creating a sense of optimism. Firstronics, which provides electronics manufacturing services and focuses on contract medical-device manufacturing, announced in late 2013 that it would add 110 jobs and committed to a $2.45-million expansion in Grand Rapids.”

The Holland/Grand Haven metro area also did well, ranking 29th on this year’s list. The region that includes San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood, Calif. placed first on the list, followed by Austin/Round Rock/San Marcos, Texas, and Provo/Orem, Utah.

“In the 2014 index, technology and shale energy remain the two overarching factors driving the performance of top metros. However, these cities also possess a variety of other positive traits that help explain their success,” the report read.

“Several metros with dense urban areas, for example, have the innovation advantage: They are able to offset high costs, an unfavorable tax structure, and a burdensome regulatory environment thanks to the clustering of talent and technology in an entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The report also noted a remarkable detail about national job growth in 2014: All 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession were finally recovered in the second quarter of 2014.

“Job growth has improved since the earlier stages of the recovery from the Great Recession. Since the start of 2014, monthly job gains have averaged 227,000 — with upward revisions during the last several months, suggesting a stable pattern. An important milestone was achieved in the second quarter of 2014: All 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession were recovered,” according to the Milken Institute report.

“Businesses are laying off fewer workers, with the lowest four-week moving average of initial claims for unemployment insurance recorded in late September and early October since 1998. Another positive sign: Firms with fewer than 50 workers have created approximately 40 percent of all jobs during the past 12 months, slightly more than these firms’ share of total employment.”

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