Top cities for global trade
Population: 212,461 | Unemployment: 6.0 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 0.1 percent
The former steel center of the South was forced to remodel its economic landscape and has gone about not only becoming a major force in construction and engineering—home to such prestigious firms as BE&K and Brasfield & Gorrie—but has become a top 10 banking center nationally. It has pushed to grow and diversify through such business think tanks as The Edge of Chaos run out of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and the Innovation Depot, an incubator that has contributed better than $1 billion to the local economy.
BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA
Population: 71,167 | Unemployment: 2.9 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 16.1 percent
Bismarck seems to be a win-win situation economically, good for employers and their employees. Consider that between 2002 and 2013 the number of companies doing business there increased 1,169, which translated to more than 16,000 jobs, and what people got paid to do those jobs increased an exceptional $16,160 annually. Wages and a healthy business climate aren’t the only reasons to stick around; so are a low cost of living, an unemployment rate that rarely goes over 3 percent and a quality of life that includes plenty of outdoor activities.
Population: 176,588 | Unemployment: 5.1 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 5.3 percent
Employment growth in Chattanooga ranked behind only Nashville in Tennessee last year and it figures to take a significant jump in 2016 as Volkswagen goes ahead with its plans for a $900 million expansion of its already sizeable manufacturing plant. The expansion will bring with it another 2,000 jobs, including 200 engineers in a downtown research and development center. The area also landed another German manufacturer, Wacker Chemical and its $1.5 billion polysilicon production plant as well as an Amazon distribution center.
Population: 677,166 | Unemployment: 6.8 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: -5.1 percent
Motown’s recovery from its 2013 bankruptcy has steadily gained strength and, more importantly, investments. Led by Cleveland Cavaliers owner (and Detroit native) Dan Gilbert and Tigers owner Mike Illitch, money has flowed downtown for multiple office and entertainment developments. Many see their investments not only as the right thing to do but the smart thing, also. JP Morgan Chase pledged $100 million in investments for projects as disparate and necessary as blight removal, small business development, job training and a light-rail project; later it announced another $32 million for commercial/residential redevelopment projects.
Population: 158,289 | Unemployment: 4.8 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 9.8 percent
When Hayward says it is centrally located on the high-tech corridor between San Jose and San Francisco, it’s not kidding. It’s 25 miles southeast of San Francisco, 26 miles north of San Jose. It has taken advantage of its proximity with growing sectors in advanced and specialized manufacturing, green tech and biotechnology and figures to attract more through its “Business Concierge Program” that strives to be a one-stop shop for everything a business would need to grow in the city.
JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY
Population: 264,290 | Unemployment: 5.0 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 6.7 percent
You know what they say: Location! Location! Relatively affordable location! Manhattan’s less expensive, nearby neighbor—about 10 minutes from downtown to the World Trade Center—has not only been attracting a lot of priced-out professionals, making it New Jersey’s fastest growing city, but has seen a building boom to accommodate them. Developers last year built 7,000 units of housing and had another 19,000 approved. What’s more, Jersey City is starting to attract corporate citizens: witness J.P Morgan announcing last year it would be moving 2,000 jobs across the Hudson.
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
Population: 197,992 | Unemployment: 3.7 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 2.3 percent
Recently, Little Rock has been attracting a lot of notice and money: more than $2.12 billion in new investment, not to mention more than 14,000 jobs. One huge reason is the city’s central location in the country—locals call it “Where America Comes Together”—with access to more than 1 million people less than an hour’s drive from its downtown. Located at the crossroad of I-30 and I-40—the nation’s most traveled Interstate—Little Rock is within a 550-mile radius of 40 percent of the nation’s population.
Population: 85,444 | Unemployment: 4.1 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 3.2 percent
In 2000, city leaders put together a “Renaissance Plan” to resuscitate a city that had fallen into disrepair, both physically and economically. Key to their plan was using tax increment financing in funding projects and a willingness to do whatever it took to attract and keep businesses. Sixteen years later, Ogden is attracting the likes of Wayfair and Northrop Gruman and building business development parks such as the Ogden Business Exchange, home to 30 outdoor companies. Job growth is at 4 percent while the city’s gross metro product has increased a robust 7.21 percent.
SAN ANGELO, TEXAS
Population: 100,450 | Unemployment: 4.6 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 7.8 percent
San Angelo has regularly been included on lists of best small cities for business, which sounds quaint, but the fact is this city recently went over the 100,000 mark in population and everything about its economy is rather big league, particularly in its diversity. Though oil and agriculture play a major part in it, San Angelo, home to Angelo State University, has a healthy, diverse menu of sectors ranging from retail to telecommunications to manufacturing, which employs about 10 percent of the local workforce.
Population: 531,641 | Unemployment: 5.7 percent | Population Growth Since 2010: 2.2 percent
Site of the University of Arizona, Tucson could well be the next big thing, technologically speaking. It’s home to the Tucson Tech Corridor (TTC) and several big technology companies such as Raytheon and IBM, which employs thousands of Tucson residents. StartUp Tucson has: created CoLab Workspace, a downtown open-innovation workspace; created the MonsoonFund, a local crowd-funding platform providing local startup companies pre-seed funding; and launched Thryve, Tucson’s first-ever social impact incubator program. Tech Parks Arizona—a University of Arizona unit integrating technology commercialization and industry collaboration—directs the UA Tech Park and the Arizona Center for Innovation.
Top cities for global trade