Milken Institute: Seattle metro ranks as #17 “Best Performing Large City.” Job creation, wages, and tech are key criteria.

Seattle comes in at No. 17 in the Milken Institute’s 2017 “Best Performing Cities” report. The Provo-Orem, Utah metro tops the list.

With the sub-title, “Where America’s Jobs are Created and Sustained,” the report focuses on a handful of metrics:

The index measures growth in jobs, wages, salaries, and technology output over five years (2011-2016 for jobs and technology output and 2010-2015 for wages and salaries) to adjust for extreme variations in business cycles. It also incorporates the latest available year’s performance in these areas (2015-2016 for jobs and technology output and 2014-2015 for wages and salaries). In addition, it includes a measure of 12-month job growth (August 2016-August 2017) to capture recent momentum among metropolitan economies.

The Seattle profile states,

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA, dips seven places to 17th, with a larger degree of decline in one-year wage growth and short-term job growth.The lower growth rates in the short-term indicators should not be deemed a sign of a declining economy. In fact, this metro has been standing among theTop 20 in our ranking since 2012. As in the 2016 ranking, it has strong performance in ve-year wage growth (No. 6) and high-tech GDP concentration (No. 2)…

The growth in the tech sector is the main contributor to the recent strong economic performance of the metro.The talent pool, together with relatively cheaper housing prices in this metro compared with the Bay Area or New York City, are the main reasons for the growth of the tech sector in Seattle- Bellevue-Everett. In 2016, the share of population with at least a bachelor’s degree accounted for 46.2 percent of the metro’s population aged 25 and over.

Two Washington cities rank among the top 10 performing small cities. Bend-Redmond, Oregon ranks No. 1 on the small city list.

The Wenatchee profile points out some key strengths, including new technology.

…this is a 31 rank improvement over last year’s edition. Strong growth in jobs and wages in both one- and five-year indicators contribute to the metro’s fth-place nish this year.

The metro is highly dependent on agriculture, speci cally apples. A heavy re season has spared the metro’s crops, helping to maintain growth. The metro hosts the Washington State UniversityTree Fruit Research and Extension Center, which benefits from an area that produced more apples than the rest of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The metro hopes to introduce a new apple WA 38, or the “Cosmic Crisp,” in 2019 and mass market it in 2020. The apple will be priced to compete at the upper-end of the apple market where profit margins are higher. C&O Nursery in Wenatchee has invested in tech company Phytelligence, which is developing more robust planting methods for fruit trees and grapevines.

Of Bellingham, Milken writes,

Bellingham, WA, gained 68 spots over the previous ranking to end up eighth on this year’s BPC Small Cities index. The last time this metro was in the Top 10 was 2008. Solid cornerstone industries have helped Bellingham grow, aided by a high concentration of high-tech firms. The metro’s competitive advantages from bordering Canada, the university, favorable changes in demographics, and solid performances from extraction industries lifted growth.

Bellingham has significant employment in the natural resource sector. The two most prominent industries are petroleum products and aluminum, which have helped expand the regional economy. The petroleum refinery supports both U.S. and Canadian crude.

 Solid strengths on which to build. As the authors write, high performance is not an accident.

While national and international political and economic forces can affect near-term performance and can lie beyond a region’s control, the top-performing metros have cohesive strategies that allow them to leverage their assets more effectively. They offer important lessons that may be helpful to peer regions.

And a possible caution for Seattle,

As rising wages and rents raised the cost of doing business in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose, some rms chose to relocate or expand away from these regions, distributing opportunities to other parts of the U.S. Managing growth and making continued quality investments in infrastructure and education will be key to these cities prospering in the long term.

We know a number of our readers enjoy these annual metro profiles. The Milken report is a good read.