Among the Bigs, More of the Same
Of course, not all the stars of this year's rankings are small places, and in terms of total job growth, it's still the big boys who tell the largest stories and possess the greatest opportunities for expansion. Since most of our largest metros from the past two years are on this year's list, there are a lot of similarities at the top, as well as towards the nether regions in terms of business expansion.
Yet, the large list bears one similarity with the small one: the location of growth cities in either the West or the southern dynamo of Florida, which seems to have overcome any aftershocks from last year's hurricanes. Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Bank in Charlotte, N.C., claims the Sunshine State boasts "the strongest economy in the country -- the strongest I can remember in 22 years."
Vitner marvels that all 21 metro areas in that state are experiencing substantial growth. The reasons vary but, as Kobza suggests, start with warm weather and lifestyle. Other factors include a lack of state income tax, a largely business-friendly regulatory climate, growing international trade, and, for the most part, reasonably affordable housing.
Even the harsh storms, which devastated much of the Gulf Coast, has barely dampened the growth in Florida. Places like No. 3 Ft. Myers-Cape Coral seem to grow no matter what happens. The local population has surged 16% since 2000, to well over 500,000 -- and there's no sign of a letup yet. "The problem here is full employment," notes Gay Thompson, president of Cement Industries, a local building-supply contractor . "We have such a booming economy, it's hard to find people for work."