Boomtowns '06: Hottest Midsize Cities
1 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida
Hurricanes haven't dampened population growth in this Gulf Coast area--it's up 16 percent, to more than 500,000, since 2000. Among the key job generators: tourism, construction, and new service firms, many founded by refugees from cooler climes.
Overall Rank 3 | 1-Year Job Growth 4.8% | 5-Year Job Growth 25.2% | Index Score 97.1
2 McAllen-Edinburg, Texas
Rising trade with Mexico, combined with population growth--up 15.6 percent between 2000 and 2004--have pushed employment up more than 19 percent since 2001. Services, wholesale and retail trade, and education have led the way.
Overall Rank 12 | 1-Year Job Growth 4.7% | 5-Year Job Growth 22.3% | Index Score 93.4
3 Fayetteville, Arkansas
Northwest Arkansas doesn't get much ink, but jobs are up 14 percent since 2001, with growth in services, education, and transportation. Two key drivers: Wal-Mart's headquarters in nearby Bentonville and the University of Arkansas.
Overall Rank 19 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.3% | 5-Year Job Growth 19.9% | Index Score 88.4
4 Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
Population is expanding and the professional services sector is burgeoning--up nearly 30 percent since 2002. One key reason has been the migration of skilled workers and managers from elsewhere in the country.
Overall Rank 20 | 1-Year Job Growth 4.6% | 5-Year Job Growth 15.1% | Index Score 88.2
5 Reno-Sparks, Nevada
The Reno area continues to suck up more of the Bay Area's companies and people. That's sparked new activity in services, manufacturing, and construction--where employment is up 45 percent since 2002.
Overall Rank 25 | 1-Year Job Growth 4.2% | 5-Year Job Growth 11.9% | Index Score 84.4
6 Palm Bay-Melbourne, Florida
Palm Bay issued more than 3,200 single-family building permits in 2005. The influx of new residents has sparked booms in construction and in business and professional services. Thanks to NASA's Cape Canaveral, the area attracts aerospace and defense firms.
Overall Rank 27 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.1% | 5-Year Job Growth 11.3% | Index Score 84.1
7 Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida
A half-billion dollars in capital investments has flowed into Volusia County over the past three years. Manufacturers are adding jobs, particularly auto-parts makers, medical-device firms, and boat builders. Service jobs also are plentiful.
Overall Rank 34 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.0% | 5-Year Job Growth 13.4% | Index Score 83.0
8 Lakeland, Florida
With 500 lakes, Lakeland bills itself as the water-skiing capital of the world. It's also a major hub for back-office operations of financial services and insurance firms like Geico and State Farm. Mid-career adults aged 35 to 54, attracted by low housing costs and good schools, have driven recent population growth--a positive sign for companies looking for skilled employees.
Overall Rank 38 | 1-Year Job Growth 2.6% | 5-Year Job Growth 10.3% | Index Score 80.0
9 Provo-Orem, Utah
High-tech firms like Novell are finding a home in Provo, which is completing a $40 million fiber-optic network. Low crime and outdoor activities make it a magnet for young professionals. Brigham Young University adds academic heft, and for celebrity sightings, Sundance Film Festival is just up the road.
Overall Rank 40 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.8% | 5-Year Job Growth 8.6% | Index Score 79.0
10 Bakersfield, California
The fourth-largest agricultural region in California, Bakersfield is home to plenty of food packagers and processors. But it also boasts two major defense research facilities, including Edwards Air Force Base, which has led to an emerging cluster of aerospace companies.
Overall Rank 41 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.1% | 5-Year Job Growth 12.4% | Index Score 78.9
11 Boise, Idaho
Cheap labor, energy, and office space are key incentives, as is the state's pro-business climate. Computer makers, biotech firms, health care providers, and software developers are among the region's new employers.
Overall Rank 48 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.6% | 5-Year Job Growth 8.2% | Index Score 76.3
12 Charleston, South Carolina
Defense contractors and tech start-ups that support local military-research centers are surging. The Port of Charleston remains a draw for manufacturers, especially auto-parts suppliers and chemical processors.
Overall Rank 54 | 1-Year Job Growth 2.5% | 5-Year Job Growth 9.9% | Index Score 75.0
Tucson boasts 300 sunny days a year, and the city's high-tech scene is also an attraction. Aerospace and IT firms are top employers, and several major medical facilities support cutting-edge research in the biosciences.
Overall Rank 60 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.9% | 5-Year Job Growth 6.8% | Index Score 74.0
14 Anchorage, Alaska
The service sector is on a roll, with strong growth in health care, professional services, tourism, and trade. High energy prices have sparked demand for engineers and consultants for oil and gas exploration.
Overall Rank 63 | 1-Year Job Growth 2.1% | 5-Year Job Growth 11.3% | Index Score 72.3
15 Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, Florida
A major hurricane hit Pensacola in 2004, but the area rebounded thanks to investments in the rebuilding of homes, office buildings, and highways. An influx of call centers has come to the region, and major health care facilities are expanding.
Overall Rank 71 | 1-Year Job Growth 2.0% | 5-Year Job Growth 7.7% | Index Score 69.5
16 Charles-Prince George's, Maryland
Just outside Washington, D.C., the counties of southern Maryland rely heavily on the federal government, defense contractors, and tech companies. High concentrations of engineers and scientists make the area a hotbed for medical and defense research, which drives entrepreneurial activity.
Overall Rank 75 | 1-Year Job Growth 3.3% | 5-Year Job Growth 6.7% | Index Score 68.7
17 Tacoma, Washington
Last year, the Port of Tacoma opened three new terminals to handle more international container business, which grew 20 percent. That's creating jobs at the docks, as well as in warehouses and distribution centers around the region. Reasonably priced homes attract transplants from Seattle.
Overall Rank 77 | 1-Year Job Growth 2.5% | 5-Year Job Growth 6.9% | Index Score 67.5
18 Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
An outdoors paradise, Ogden is now working to attract the companies that make equipment for all the fun and games. So far, a ski-pole maker and an outdoor apparel company have moved in and bicycle manufacturer Scott USA recently decided to build a production and distribution center there.
Overall Rank 78 | 1-Year Job Growth 2.1% | 5-Year Job Growth 8.5% | Index Score 67.4
19 Huntsville, Alabama
A number of high-tech companies, such as Dynetics, are building their headquarters in this region, which boasts the second largest science and technology research park in the nation. Manufacturing got a lift when a number of auto suppliers added jobs, and local military contractors also have been thriving.
Overall Rank 95 | 1-Year Job Growth 1.9% | 5-Year Job Growth 7.2% | Index Score 65.0
20 Portland, Maine
Portland recently opened a $25 million road that connects its busy waterfront with Interstate 295, the area's major highway, giving easier access to truckers picking up cargo at the docks. Health care and financial services also are bright spots.
Overall Rank 97 | 1-Year Job Growth 1.7% | 5-Year Job Growth 8.0% | Index Score 64.5
|28||Des Moines, IA||129||1.6%||4.9%||58.4|
|32||El Paso, TX||145||2.7%||2.5%||55.9|
|34||Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, CA||154||1.7%||4.1%||54.7|
|43||Colorado Springs, CO||187||1.8%||0.6%||48.3|
|45||Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI||189||1.3%||2.9%||47.8|
|52||Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||221||0.7%||3.7%||42.3|
|55||Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC||227||0.8%||2.0%||41.4|
|56||Kansas City, KS||228||0.8%||1.6%||41.4|
|58||Shreveport-Bossier City, LA||236||0.8%||0.4%||40.7|
|60||Greensboro-High Point, NC||242||1.0%||-1.8%||39.2|