Here's How 16 US Cities Have Left The Recession In The Dust

Health Care

Only a few kinds of cities are seeing anything close to a recovery, according to a new study from the Milken Institute. These are cities with an X-Factor that drives growth, such as exposure to a booming industry.

Government jobs are the biggest growth industry, lifting cities like Washington D.C. and Bethesda, Md. Health care is another booming industry, carrying cities like Charleston, S.C.

And half of the top 25 cities are in Texas.

Milken’s best-performing cities index is based on job, wage and GDP growth.

Fort Worth, Texas

Index Score: 356.4

Rank: #23

X factor: Financial industry

Though Fort Worth continues to see an increasing population growth, this Texas city fell from 12 to 23 this year. Fort Worth's main industries include aerospace and auto manufacturing, both of which should improve as the economy recovers. The growing finance industry has added over 1,000 jobs to the city.

Source: Milken Institute

Oklahoma City, Okla.

Index Score: 335.3

Rank: #21

X factor: Oil and gas extraction

Oklahoma City fared better than the rest of the nation when it came to the housing market; they had relatively less exposure to subprime mortgages and a number of aerospace suppliers helped boost home sales. Oil and natural gas extraction has begun to recover and in July they opened a $1.8 million terminal for corporate jets and private charters. Government was responsible for creating over 1,800 jobs and the health-care industry created over 1,000.

Source: Milken Institute

Bethesda, Md.

Index Score: 332.1

Rank: #20

X factor: Federal government

This Maryland city improved markedly from its rankings last year, jumping 31 ranks to 20. As the headquarters of Lockheed Martin, Bethesda has benefited from increased federal spending on military products. Also its high-tech diversity ranking--with increased funding toward The National Institute of Health headquarters-- has helped its overall rankings skyrocket.

Source: Milken Institute

Charleston, S.C.

Index Score: 319.6

Rank: #19

X factor: Aerospace and health-care driving growth

As Charleston has seen a decline in tourism, it has turned its attention to aerospace, health services and stable military presence. Boeing is also planning to build an assembly plant that is expected to add 3,800 jobs in the area. The city also hopes to build a reputation for clean tech after Clemson University received a $98 million grant to build a wind turbine drivetrain testing facility.

Source: Milken Institute

Dallas, Texas

Index Score: 301.6

Rank: #17

X factor: Warehousing industry

Dallas has maintained its diverse high-tech industry with major IT and telecom companies like AT&T (which recently moved its headquarters to Dallas), Verizon, Texas Instruments and Hewlett-Packard. The Texas metro continues to capitalise on its central location as its warehousing industry expanded slightly.

Source: Milken Institute

Durham, N.C.

Index Score: 278.3

Rank: #15

X factor: High wages per employee

Ranked as having the fourth highest concentration of high-tech output in the country in 2009, Durham benefits from Duke University and its proximity to the Research Triangle Park. Durham has lost some jobs in key sectors, but its housing prices have stayed relatively stable leading to increased spending in education and health services.

Source: Milken Institute

Brownsville, Texas

Index Score: 259.8

Rank: #13

X factor: Telecommunications

Brownsville flew up 57 spots this year to 13. It ranked first in high-tech output growth as its lower costs have attracted a variety of telecommunication services. Also because of its location, Brownsville is dependent on cross-border trade with Mexico, which has helped build its transportation and warehousing industries; the region's first biodiesel terminal recently opened in Brownsville.

Source: Milken Institute

Lafayette, La.

Index Score: 257.8

Rank: #11

X factor: Mining

Lafayette has taken the tragedy of Katrina and turned it into opportunity by taking advantage of energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Its biggest industry is support activities for mining and employs about 9 per cent of the city's employed. But the Louisiana metro may soon see negative repercussions from falling energy prices and the recent Gulf oil spill.

Source: Milken Institute

El Paso, Texas

Index Score: 253.3

Rank: #9

X factor: Federal government

Recent military construction has helped El Paso's overall growth, as well as its location to the Mexico border as its trade and commerce industries have picked up. Also, its trade in computer products in Mexico grew 80 per cent and 150 jobs were created in the computer adn electronic product manufacturing industry.

Source: Milken Institute

Anchorage, Alaska

Index Score: 248.1

Rank: #8

X factor: Oil and gas extraction

Federal, state and local governments added almost 850 jobs to Anchorage, boosting it to the second highest job growth its 2008-2009. Oil and gas extraction made some gains and energy companies in the area continue to employ thousands in the city. As the economy recovers, Anchorage should be able to take advantage on increased port activity.

Source: Milken Institute

Washington, D.C.

Index Score: 227.9

Rank: #6

X factor: Federal government

The federal government contributed to an increased job growth after it added close to 11,000 position. D.C. also received nearly 10 times as much stimulus per capita than the national average, which has helped fuel growth in high-tech industries.

Source: Milken Institute

Kennewick, Wash.

Index Score: 206.0

Rank: #5

X factor: Population growth

Kennewick moved from the small metro list to the 200 largest metro list as its population grew this year. After receiving a large amount of federal funding, the metro saw a stabilised economy and a boom in job growth. Kennewick is home to the Department of Energy's Hanford environmental remediation project, the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Lab and several large engineering firms.

Source: Milken Institute

McAllen, Texas

Index Score: 195.1

Rank: #4

X factor: Health-care and social assistance services

McAllen maintains its rank as number one in five-year job growth. Its location near the Mexico border has helped it become an important trade and logistics site as its low business costs make it an attractive area for incoming companies. It also has three major hospitals, which are three of the top four private employers in McAllen.

Source: Milken Institute

Huntsville, Texas

Index Score: 134.6

Rank: #3

X factor: Professional, scientific and technical services

Huntsville is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight centre, the Missile defence Agency and more than 60 other government agencies. Aerospace contractors are the major employers in the area and the city has teh natino's highest concentration of engineers per capita.

Source: Milken Institute

Austin, Texas

Index Score: 137.5

Rank: #2

X factor: Low unemployment

Despite Austin's dependence on computers and information technology and the hard hits that industry sustained during the recession, the Texas capital still ranked in the top 25 of almost all growth performance charts. Austin's housing market remained relatively stable compared to the rest of the nation and its net population increased by 32,000 in 2009.

Source: Milken Institute

Killeen, Texas

Index score: 100.0

Rank: #1

X Factor: Wage growth

Despite the Fort Hood shooting last year, this city's job, wage and salary and year-over-year job growth make it this year's best-performing city. The metro benefits from a strong military presence and its proximity to a trade corridor with Mexico.

Source: Milken Institute

BONUS: Here's the full list of top cities

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