Fort Smith area slips big on Best Performing Cities Index

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 42 views 

The Fort Smith metro area was one of the five biggest decliners in the 2010 Milken Institute Best Performing Cities Index — a reflection of the inability to create and sustain jobs.

Milken’s closely watched index measures long-term (five years) and short-term (one year) employment and salary growth, and includes four measurements of technology output growth. The index ranks 379 metros and categorizes them as large or small, based on whether their populations fall above or below 245,000.

In 2009, the Fort Smith area was ranked 62 among the 200 larger metro areas, but fell to 150 in 2010. The other metro areas to see the largest drops were Eugene-Springfield, Ore., (160, down from 81); Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif. (138, down from 43); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., (132, down from 50); and Greeley, Colo., (101, down from 20).

“The Great Recession has taken a toll on many cities,” Ross DeVol, executive director of economic research at the Milken Institute, said in a statement. “But those that are sustaining their job markets are doing so through a good mix of high-tech industries, favorable business climates and diversified service-sector industries. These are definite lessons for how American metros can be prepared to survive economic turmoil.”

Jeff Collins, a Northwest Arkansas-based economist and economist for The City Wire’s The Compass Report, said the Milken Index is created to give an advantage to metro areas with more high-tech, high wage jobs. Therefore, the index is structured so that it “will over-punish” any metro that is losing jobs and has a large manufacturing base, Collins explained.

“Your Milken Index ranking will not improve until macroeconomic factors in the U.S. improve to spur demand for manufactured goods,” he said.

The index is another measure that shows the Fort Smith metro area is not as diversified as maybe it should be. In the high-tech GDP location quotient, Fort Smith ranked 198 out of 200, which indicates a small percentage of the overall GDP of the regional economy is produced by high-tech jobs.

“Those are all areas (high-tech, high-wage) where you don’t change overnight. It will require much work over many years to diversify your economy,” Collins said.

Arkansas’ other large metro areas had the following changes:
• Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers: 43, decline from 27 in 2009
• Little Rock-North Little Rock: 93, decline from 23 in 2009
• Memphis-West Memphis: 166, improvement from 178 in 2009

Arkansas’ smaller metro areas were also ranked in a separate index comparing 124 smaller metros.
• Hot Springs: 140, unchanged from 2009
• Pine Bluff: 156, unchanged from 2009
• Texarkana: 42, decline from 17 in 2009
• Jonesboro: 79, unchanged from 2009

In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City metro area improved to 21 from its 2009 rank of 26. The Tulsa metro area fell to 38 in 2010 from a 2009 rank of 19.

The 2010 top performers among the 200 largest metros:
Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas (2, in 2009)
Austin-Round Rock, Texas (1)
Huntsville, Ala. (8)
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (4)
Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash. (n.a.)
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, (25)
Raleigh-Cary, N.C. (10)
Anchorage, Alaska (40)
El Paso, Texas (14)
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (5)

The five biggest gainers on the 200 largest metros list were:
Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky. (39, up from 136)
St. Louis, (44, up from 128)
Charleston, W.V. (61, up from 144)
Pittsburgh, Penn. (32, up from 109)
Huntington-Ashland, W.V.-Ky.-Ohio (73, up from 149)