Seattle ranks #7 in Milken Institute’s 2015 “Best Performing Cities” report. Strong clusters boosted by tech and education.

Seattle climbs four positions to reach No. 7 in the most recent Milken Institute “Best Performing Cities” report. (Puget Sound Business Journal report here.) The Milken Institute writes in its highlights section,

Each year, the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities report identifies the latest trends and most relevant factors powering regional growth. Our index uses a comprehensive, fact-based set of criteria to rank the nation’s metropolitan areas. Among them are job creation, wage gains, and technology trends that shape current and potential patterns of growth.

As the chart makes clear, tech-centric metros claim many of the top positions.

Top 25 Milken cities

The top two slots are the northern California metros of San Jose and San Francisco. (To further understand how Los Angeles lost the tech race to Silicon Valley, see this article by Joel Kotkin. It wasn’t inevitable.)

The extended Seattle discussion points out (page 23 of the full report),

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington, is back in the Top 10, climbing four spots to seventh place. Much of its success can be traced to the technology sector. The region ranks second in the nation for the importance of high-tech industries to the local economy, up from fourth in last year’s index. They are key contributors to the metro’s strong wage and job gains in recent years. Further, the improved short-term job growth ranking—at 22nd, compared with 35th last year—indicates that economic momentum remains strong.

The Puget Sound Regional Council also has released a draft analysis of the regional economy, similarly identifying growth in the tech sectors.  

Five of the industry clusters have had increases in employment over the six-year period, the bulk of which occurred in Information Technology (24%) and Aerospace (12%).

The reports underscore the importance of an excellent education in preparing Washingtonians for the career opportunities generated by a growing economy. In our foundation report, we wrote of our Achieve priority: 

ACHIEVE: Provide a high-caliber education and workforce development system geared to the demands of the 21st century.

• Expand access to postsecondary education that boosts career opportunity and supports economic growth.

• Ensure all students graduate from high school career- and college-ready.

• Drive interest and performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) among K-12 students and increase access to postsecondary STEM programs.

• Focus early learning assistance on children most at risk of entering kindergarten unprepared.

Setting, meeting and maintaining high academic standards is critical. Most Washingtonians agree, as found in this 2014 poll conducted for the Partnership for Learning. A new report from the Brookings Institution, “Opportunity, Responsibility and Security,” outlines a strategy for expanding opportunity and reducing poverty. Four of the twelve recommendations they make are designed to improve education. 

To improve education in ways that will better help poor children avail themselves of opportunities for self-advancement:

1) Increase public investment in two underfunded stages of education: preschool and postsecondary.

2) Educate the whole child to promote social-emotional and character development as well as academic skills.

3) Modernize the organization and accountability of education.

4) Close resource gaps to reduce education gaps.

These are tough challenges. But if the prosperity currently enjoyed in the Seattle metro area is to be broadly distributed statewide, expanding opportunity for all Washingtonians, we will have to accept and meet the challenge. Our Opportunity Washington agenda offers a clear roadmap.