top cities for global trade
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Population: 559,121 | Unemployment: 6.4 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 448,607 to 559,121
City business officials say they are going to push to turn Albuquerque into a hub for national conventions based on an innovative past that included the atom bomb and a present and future tied to space tourism. The ultimate goal is to bring conventioneers in contact with local tech stars at places such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic operations at Spaceport America. Spaceport is particularly promising as it has the potential to turn Albuquerque into the world’s space tourism capital.
Population: 58,025 | Unemployment: 3.8 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 50,269 to 58,025
Bowie has grown from a small railway stop with just 860 residents in 1950 to the fifth largest state in Maryland. The city made its intention to continuing growing clear when, four years ago, it opened the Bowie Business Innovation Center, a comprehensive business incubation program located at Bowie State University designed to help accelerate the growth of early-stage companies. The Bowie BIC, which provides programs and facilities to assist growing businesses, has been particularly noteworthy for its work with many woman-owned companies.
Population: 260,828 | Unemployment: 4.5 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 176,581 to 260,828
The city grew a hellacious 202 percent between 1980-1990, making the 32 percent jump over the past 15 years seem almost tame. Intel, by far the town’s biggest employer with more than 11,000 workers, has been a rock in the local economy. But as sales of laptops fell, the company was forced to layoff more than 300 of its staff. City leaders have pledged to work with Intel as it transitions its business, and workers, from laptops to smart devices.
Population: 63,335 | Unemployment: 4.5 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 53,011 to 63,335
The city takes great strides to widen and diversify its economy: Witness sizeable distribution centers operated by Lowe’s and Wal-Mart as well as data centers such as the NCAR computing center and the Microsoft Data Center. But the biggest, longest lasting change to the local business landscape figures to come, as Cheyenne’s own landscape is transformed by its ascension to one of the leaders in alternative energy. Residents of one of the windiest areas in North America have seen increasing numbers of wind turbines around Cheyenne, and local community colleges now offer wind energy technician programs.
Population: 73,254 | Unemployment: 6.8 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 81,860 to 73,254
Decatur has some economic heft; Archer Daniels Midland located its headquarters there and Caterpillar is one of its largest manufacturing plants. The Midwest Inland Port, a multi-modal transportation hub with market proximity to 95 million customers, opened in 2013 and is still working toward its full potential. This summer, one of North America’s largest private railroad and transportation management companies, OmniTRAX, took over management of the facility; if it’s able to move things forward that will mean big things for Decatur, which has a major industrial park on the line.
EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA
Population: 17,037 | Unemployment: 5.2 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 983
There must be something in the water that enriches the businesses of this cozy Southern California beach town, whose population has remained between 15,000 and 17,000 for the past 25 years. Within its borders are major corporate employers such as Raytheon, Mattel, Northrup Grumman and Chevron, all of which employ at least 1,000 people. It’s also home to some of the fastest growing companies in the nation, including Quest Nutrition that, in a recent three-year span, experienced a ridiculous 57,000 percent growth.
Population: 285,667 | Unemployment: 6.9 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 175,381
Thirty-five years ago, Henderson didn’t have 25,000 residents to call its own. Today, it has nearly 290,000. Henderson made its name as a magnesium producer during World War II and then as a manufacturing center. Today, there are a wide variety of industries and major corporations with large offices or headquarters in Henderson, including Levi Strauss, Ocean Spray, Ford Credit and Good Humor-Breyers. Being within 15 miles of Las Vegas, it’s not surprising the city is developing a marketplace for communications technology.
Population: 190,582 | Unemployment: 5.8 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 158,216 to 190,582
Huntsville is one of a growing number of mid- to smaller-sized cities that is attempting to make the transition from manufacturing center to tech hub. So far, so good: It has attracted major talent from the likes of Stanford which, in turn, has attracted more brainpower so that the city now has 16.7 percent of its workers operating in STEM fields. To put that in perspective, tech havens San Francisco and Boston have 12 and 11 percent, respectively.
Population: 51,818 | Unemployment: 4.8 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 45,504 to 51,818
Long a mining center, Joplin has been going about the business of remaking itself economically. One key industry in doing that has been and will continue to be trucking; Con-Way Truckload is the city’s second leading employer behind Freeman Health Center. The industry figures to keep on growing as it keeps on trucking; Joplin is served by Interstate 44 and U.S. 71 that connect drivers to and from bigger cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Tulsa and Little Rock.
Population: 93,917 | Unemployment: 4.2 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 80,098 to 93,917
Traditionally, Lawrence has focused on retaining and growing companies already calling this college town home. With more recent developments such as the 200-acre Lawrence VenturePark, it appears an emphasis will be put toward attracting new businesses. The city’s attributes are obvious: Home to the University of Kansas, the local workforce is exceptionally educated, with 80 percent having some college experience. That kind of talent explains the city’s diverse economy; top private employers range from General Dynamics to Lawrence Memorial Hospital to Hallmark Cards.
Population: 50,371 | Unemployment: 3.7 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 42,670 to 50,371
You’ve probably noticed this year and in years past that an awful lot of Utah cities end up on these lists. That’s because Utah is generally considered the best-run state for business in the country. And so, Logan is yet another Utah city to pay attention to. It’s home to a large research university in Utah State, its economy cuts across a broad swath of sectors (manufacturing, processing, agricultural), and its local government is receptive. Logan boasts a low cost of living (10 percent below the national average) and even lower cost of doing business—an eye catching 30 percent below the national average.
Population: 249,042 | Unemployment: 3.9 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 199,564 to 249,042
Agriculture has played a dominant role in the local economy—Lubbock is home to the largest contiguous cotton-growing region in the world—but the city has built its business profile away from the fields by attracting more than 50 businesses to relocate there last year. They, and others, are attracted by Lubbock’s steadily growing population—a 50,000 increase since 2000—and a local support system that has been lauded for making it easy for new businesses to access information and financing.
Population: 118,968 | Unemployment: 6.7 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 90,943 to 118,968
Odessa’s long history of benefitting from oil booms and having to endure its busts has moved leaders to diversify things. Since the city is a stop on the Entrada al Pacifico trade corridor, it’s not surprising that one notable growing sector is logistics and, over the past 10 years, employment in the mining, logging and construction sectors has roughly tripled. Energy is still a key player, though that now includes major new or planned facilities for wind, clean coal and nuclear power.
Population: 369,075 | Unemployment: 4.6 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 303,447 to 369,075
Tampa has been moving in the right direction the past three years; it was just 2013 when the city’s unemployment rate was an alarming 8.1 percent. Today, the Tampa International Airport is undergoing nearly $1 billion in renovations and expansion and there’s a lot of excitement about what the further opening of Cuba could mean to the local economy. In 2014, the city had 31 business relocations or expansions that promised more than 4,500 jobs and $614 million of investments.
Population: 389,965 | Unemployment: 4.9 percent | Population Growth Since 2000: 344,284
Wichita’s economy had been built for decades on energy and airplanes, but as circumstances have conspired to make both of those long-time bedrocks a bit shaky, locals have had to transition to a wider, more diverse menu of industry sectors led by manufacturing and numerous tech sectors. In fact, the city is home to one of the highest concentrations of engineers in the country—about 21 engineers for every 1,000 employees.
Top cities for global trade