Population growth since 2000: 32% (downtown Birmingham)
Don’t let its nickname fool you: Birmingham is more than just the “Pittsburgh of the South.” In addition to an illustrious coal mining sector, Birmingham boasts one of the largest banking centers in the U.S. as well as strong manufacturing and telecommunications industries. Such merits have led to vast population growth in recent years, with the number of residents in downtown Birmingham jumping more than 30 percent since 2000 to 212,237.
Population growth since 2000: 8%
A city marked by its contributions to America’s independence story, Boston has undergone another revolution lately. The Massachusetts capital, which is home to a booming technological sector as well as some of the nation’s top universities, is now growing faster than its suburbs. Boston’s population surged 4.6 percent from 2010 to 2013, while the rest of Massachusetts only achieved 2.2 percent growth. The city also enjoys a relatively low unemployment rate of 5.9 percent.
Population growth since 2000: -26.30%
Although unemployment remains high at 16.4 percent, Detroit has come a long way from the doldrums of 2009, when unemployment hit 28 percent. Motor City has experienced a renaissance in recent years, thanks in part to a low corporate income tax and statewide initiatives to boost Michigan’s exports. They appear to be working: Detroit witnessed a $5.5 billion surge in exports from 2011 to 2013, and the 701,475-person-strong city’s economy shows no signs of slowing down.
Population growth since 2000: 32.50%
Business is booming in Fayetteville, and that’s not just because of its proximity to three major Fortune 500 companies: Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt. The Northwest Arkansas city—home to 76,899 residents—recently garnered headlines for achieving 3.8 percent economic growth in 2013; that figure is projected to surge to 4.2 percent annually by 2020. Fayetteville’s unemployment rate—5 percent—is also below the national average.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Population growth since 2000: 1.2%
A key center for office furniture manufacturing, medical devices and advanced manufacturing, aviation and automobile manufacturing, Grand Rapids got a major boost in September when two companies invested $169 million in it. Under a new grant, more than 900 jobs are coming to Grand Rapids suburbs Greenville and Walker, Mich.—a sum that’s expected to benefit Grand Rapids’ 192.294 residents greatly. State officials anticipate that the new jobs will also decrease the city’s current 6.5 percent unemployment rate.
Population growth since 2000: 4.90%
A longtime seafreight hub, Norfolk’s own exports took center stage in May when a China-bound poultry shipment left the city. China’s revoked seven-year ban on Virginia poultry is expected to lift the state’s new exports to China by $20 million in 2014—a figure that will likely have a large impact on the 245,782-person city of Norfolk. Such gains hopefully mean more jobs, which may lower Norfolk’s unemployment rate from its current 7.2 percent.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Population growth since 2000: 4.20%
Long heralded for its scenery, Salt Lake City is now also recognized for its economic contributions. The city, which is home to 189,314 inhabitants, recorded a 45.3 percent jump in exports from 2010 to 2012. Such growth is directly attributable to a Utah-based initiative to increase the number of local businesses that sell overseas. Salt Lake City’s favorable economy has also contributed to its 3.7 percent unemployment rate—one of the lowest in the U.S.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Population growth since 2000: 53.30%
Offering an abundance of jobs—the city’s unemployment rate is only 4.8 percent—Raleigh is regularly cited as one of the best places in the U.S. to do business. Raleigh, home to 423,179 people, is also a major center for high-tech research—a distinction that led Indian IT services company HCL Technologies to invest $9 million in the suburb of Cary in September. The investment will add about 1,200 jobs in the region by 2019.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Population growth since 2000: 1.30%
When a city claims to be “the most livable city in America,” it’s no surprise that people flock to it. Such is the case with St. Paul, which saw its population grow 2.5 percent, year-over-year, to 296,542 residents in 2013; that figure is slated to surge to 331,000 by 2030. The member of the Twin Cities, which is home to global giants Ecolab and 3M, also enjoys a low unemployment rate of 5.1 percent.
Sugar Land, Texas
Population growth since 2000: 30.20%
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, but that adage certainly excludes Sugar Land’s unemployment rate: 4.2 percent. The Houston suburb’s economy has grown dramatically in recent years, with job growth surging 46.2 percent from 2000 to 2007. Sugar Land’s population has followed suit, growing 24.5 percent from 2000 to 2011; the city enjoyed further growth of 6.4 percent in 2013. Currently, Sugar Land’s population stands at 82,480—a number that is expected to rise.
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