Utah city ranked best performing metro area in U.S., two others in the top 10

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PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – A central Utah city has been named the best performing city in 2021.

It is based on the latest annual rankings from the Milken Institute. According to the Best-Performing Cities 2021 report from the Milken Institute, Provo has taken the top spot from San Francisco, California, who was ranked first last year.

The reports says “Provo-Orem, Utah, takes the top spot among this year’s Best-Performing Large Cities on the strength of job, wage, and high-tech GDP growth.”

According to the Milken Institute, “Provo ranked first in both one- and five-year job growth while also ranking highly in high-tech GDP concentration and the number of high tech industries. Provo-Orem is a recipient of the tech sector’s outmigration from the expensive West Coast. It is a relatively new innovation center but offers a high quality of life and amenities in the mountain region. With significantly lower costs than Silicon Valley, Provo-Orem has attracted such tech giants as Qualtrics, Vivint, and SmartCitizen.”

The best-performing small city in the latest report is Idaho Falls, Ida.

Salt Lake City ranked fourth while Ogden came in ninth in the latest rankings. Between Provo and Ogden were Palm Bay, Fla.; Austin, Texas; Salt Lake City; Raleigh, N.C.; Boise, Ida; Phoenix; and Nashville, Tenn.

Numerous elected officials from Utah took to Twitter to highlight the state’s rankings among the latest Index, including Governor Spencer Cox.

“No surprise that Utah continues to lead the rest of the nation,” he says in a tweet. “Having 3 of the top 10 best performing cities (Provo replaced San Francisco at #1) is unheard of. Utah IS the Startup State.”

Milken Institute says the Best Performing Cities Index uses an outcomes-based set of metrics, which includes job creation, output growth, and wage gains – especially in high-technology sectors – to evaluate the relative performance of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and metropolitan divisions (MDs) in the United States.

“The goal of the index is to help readers evaluate how well these cities promote economic vitality relative to their peers,” Milken Institute says.

Utah’s three cities in the rankings – Provo, Salt Lake City, and Ogden – are considered Tier 1 cities in this index. Milken Institute explains “Tier 1 Large Cities included metros in the Intermountain West and South that demonstrated wage and job growth levels far above the national median and concentrated high-tech sectors. They also had relatively affordable housing costs and very high levels of broadband access, indicating inclusive growth based on housing and infrastructure.”

Axios explains that San Francisco, San Jose, Reno, Seattle, and Dallas fell out of the Index’s top 10 places for job creation, wage growth, and innovation.

Milken highlights Utah’s capital as an example – “For instance, Salt Lake City moves up 21 spots to come in at No. 4.”

Despite Provo landing in the top spot, the Milken Institute does say the city scored much lower on broadband access and housing affordability compared to other large cities and adds that it is the most expensive city for Utah renters. It also claims the “tight labor market and typically low unemployment rate may make it difficult for tech companies to expand further” in Provo.

Axios explains that as the pandemic prompts people to move out of more expensive cities to ones that are cheaper and easier, smaller areas – like Provo and Ogden – could see an influx of new residents.

According to preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data, Utah is the fastest-growing state in terms of population over the last decade.

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