Ellensburg ranked among the top 20 “dynamic micropolitans” in new research report.

Ellensburg has just been ranked No. 18 in a new national research report on micropolitan communities. Here’s the thumbnail description:

While the Ellensburg micro certainly benefits from tourism, its economy is much more than ski resortsand boutique hotels. The micro is home to the largest hay exporter in the country, Anderson Hay, which specializes in the Timothy hay consumed by Wagyu and Kobe cattle.xcviii It is also home to Central Washington University, which saw 55 percent growth in freshman enrollment from 2014 to 2017.

Ellensburg’s performance in the index metrics reflects a community growing around its university. The micro was better than average in every growth measure, along with a share of employment at young firms nearly two standard deviations higher than the mean. The fact that average pay has grown alon- gside jobs is an indicator that the growth has not simply been from retailers accommodating increased student consumption.

Looking ahead, Central Washington University is preparing for continued student growth, with a nearly $60 million expansion being undertaken to add residential, eating, and recreational facilities. Off cam- pus, the additions of a hotel and several other businesses indicate the rest of the micro is also preparing for that growth.

We’ve written much about the urban-rural economic divide, noting much of the employment growth in the nation and in our state has been concentrated in metropolitan areas. The new research from the Walton Family Foundation addresses the concern by focusing on the strength of micropolitans.

Dotting the U.S. map – in the Heartland and beyond – are 531 small towns, better known as micropolitan statistical areas, which comprise of one or more counties with at least one city with more than 10,000 but less than 50,000 in population. The Most Dynamic Micropolitan Index, which ranks the 531 micropolitan areas across the U.S., analyzes the economic performance and indicators that impact the social and economic fabric of America.

Our Most Dynamic Micropolitans Index attempts to bridge a gap in identifying which smaller commu-nities are thriving and which are struggling to provide economic opportunity for their residents. Most Dynamic Micropolitans is an objective, outcome-based measure of the performance of micropolitan areas across the nation. The index permits economic development officials to monitor their micros’ dynamism against others nationally or within their region and state.

The methodology makes sense.

Most Dynamic Micropolitans rankings are derived from performance-based metrics such as job growth,wage and income gains, and a new metric, the proportion of total jobs at young firms. This measurecaptures which communities are creating meaningful jobs for their residents and those that might desire to in-migrate. While most of our metrics are commonly used indicators of economic development, theyoung firm employment ratio is a relatively new measure. The young firm employment ratio has impli-cations for long-term economic growth as new firms develop new products and drive innovation. Itprovides information on the ability of entrepreneurs to start new businesses and scale them—critical for future job and wage gains.

Beyond the new firm employment ratio, we incorporate new data on regional price parities from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). These regional price parities are indexes indicating whether goods and services are generally more or less expensive than the national average. Therefore, the indexes can be used to adjust income measures for differing inflation rates and differing levels of purchasing power across regions. The level of per-capita personal income reflects these adjustments and can be viewed as ameasure of longer-term economic development because it is the stock of all prior welfare improvements.

It’s an interesting approach, which may prove valuable in understanding strategies for boosting economic growth in underperforming rural communities.

Here’s the top 20 list:




Pecos, TX


Summit Park, UT


Jackson, WY-ID


Heber, UT


Bozeman, MT


Hailey, ID


Findlay, OH


Hood River, OR


Breckenridge, CO


Fredericksburg, TX


Uvalde, TX


Vineyard Haven, MA


Cullowhee, NC


Lewisburg, TN


Key West, FL


Glenwood Springs, CO


Edwards, CO


Ellensburg, WA


Rexburg, ID


Calhoun, GA