Albuquerque, New Mexico
Leading Industries: Aerospace, Solar Energy
At any time there are more than 70,000 college students in and around Albuquerque, critical for a city whose economic well-being leans on aerospace, solar energy and technology—especially semiconductor development. Albuquerque ranks high among American cities for university graduates—32 percent of residents 25 years or older have a B.A. or higher—and New Mexico has one of the largest concentrations of Ph.D.s per capita in the country.
Leading Industries: Education, Technology
This town may be small but its residents bring with them some big numbers. Consider that nearly 56 percent of Erie citizens have college degrees, roughly twice the national average, providing a lot of value to big local employers like the University of Colorado, IBM and Oracle, and it works out okay for residents whose median household income is a robust $107,246. Not surprisingly, Erie is projected to nearly double in size by 2025.
Kansas City, Missouri
Leading Industries: Automotive, Pharma
The city is projected to see significant job growth through 2017 when the job total is expected to hit 1.1 million, half of which will be high-wage. K.C.’s well-educated residents—about a third have college degrees—are renowned for their productivity, so it’s not surprising that the likes of Ford and GM have manufacturing plants there, while Sanofi-Aventis’ drug manufacturing plant is one of the largest in the U.S.
Leading Industries:Agriculture, Health Science
Lubbock’s diverse menu of employers range from cotton—it is the largest contiguous cotton-growing region in the world and has been a leader in developing export trade—to health science with a lot in between. Fortunately, Texas Tech University, located in the city, is the only campus in the nation with a comprehensive university, a health sciences center, an agricultural college and a law school in one location.
Leading Industries: Manufacturing, Shipbuilding
Mobile’s workforce may be smart but they are also very good with their hands. Consider that the city’s once-vibrant shipbuilding industry has been making a comeback over the past 15 years; Austal USA’s expansion of operations, fueled by defense contracts, will mean almost 5,000 jobs. And Mobile’s skilled workers were a big reason Airbus chose Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley to be the site of its first U.S. airplane assembly plant.
Leading Industries: Tourism, Biotechnology
The workforce is not only smart, but young. Two-thirds of Orlando residents are under the age of 44 and about a third of them have a college degree. Not only do employers have access to well-rounded workers but state-sponsored workforce training grant programs help to keep the skills and talents of those employees up to date and profitable. Year-round sunshine and tons to do outdoors make it easier for companies to retain those employees.
Port Arthur, Texas
Leading Industries: Oil Refining, Construction
This oil refining hub is experiencing a boom in no small part due to a $10-billion addition Motiva Enterprises is making to its facility there. That addition and other local projects will likely get a portion of its skilled workforce through government agencies such as the Texas Workforce Commission, which offers services for recruitment, training and retention. Workforce Solutions of Southeast Texas’ Port Arthur connects employers directly with the city’s qualified labor pool.
San Francisco, California
Leading Industries: Financial Services, Technology
Ranked as having one of the smartest, well-educated citizenry in the U.S., nearly 36 percent of folks living in San Francisco, age 35 and younger, have at least a four-year university degree. A lot of them are working for tech giants and startups that are steadily becoming the economic identity of the city. Consider that technology jobs, which accounted for one percent of San Francisco’s economy in 1990, now account for just less than 10 percent.
Warwick, Rhode Island
Leading Industries: Machinery, Textiles
Founded in 1642, Warwick’s workforce has seen its share of economic transition. A New England manufacturing powerhouse—known for textiles, metal fabrication and electronics—the city is now moving increasingly in the direction of finance and high-tech. To help its employers and their employees with the transition, local and state programs provide matching retraining grants for up to $30,000 per employee and assistance in receiving matching grants for up to $10,000 for upgrading employee skills.
Leading Industries: Aircraft Manufacture, Healthcare
Renowned for its airplane manufacturing sector—the post 9-11 slowdown nearly wrecked its economy—Wichita being home to the highest concentration of engineers in the U.S. probably isn’t a surprise. But the fact is the city is home to more than 700 manufacturing firms dependent on a highly skilled workforce. Wichita ranked first in Brookings Institute’s list of top manufacturing areas in terms of workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and math.
Top cities for global trade