Raleigh cracks Kiplinger's Best Cities list

Raleigh did drop from No. 2 on the 2008 list, however, as unemployment doubled to 8.6 percent from a year ago, the magazine said.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s capital city is No. 10 on Kiplinger’s Personal Finance “10 Best Cities of 2009.”

Raleigh did drop from No. 2 on the 2008 list, however, as unemployment doubled to 8.6 percent from a year ago, the magazine said. The job market is one of the key factors considered in preparing the rankings.

No. 1 this year is Huntsville, Ala.

“Raleigh has an enviable economic base, built on three universities and Research Triangle Park, where employers in everything from biotech to computers still thrive,” Kiplinger’s said “Although Raleigh’s unemployment rate has doubled in the past year, to 8.6%, it’s still much lower than the 10.8% rate for the state as a whole.”

Some 36 percent of the Raleigh work force is considered part of the ‘creative class,” according to Kiplinger’s.

The top 10 selection is the latest in a series of high rankings for the Raleigh/Triangle area, including: No. 2 on the Milken Institute's 2008 listing of "Best Performing Cities”; and the Raleigh-Cary metro statistical area s ranking No. 1on Forbes' 2009 listing of "Best Metro Areas for Business and Careers."

The 2009 list is available online and will be included in the print magazine, which goes on sale June 9.

Rankings for 361 metropolitan areas were based on growth potential as well as jobs and job quality. Kiplinger’s and the Martin Prosperity Institute in evaluating cities.

“Although downturns are felt by everyone, our research has shown that the impact is less severe for those in the creative class—people who are paid to think,” said Kevin Stolarick of the institute. “People in fields such as science, engineering, architecture, and education are catalysts of vitality and livability in a city.”

The other top 10 cities with descriptions provided by Kiplinger’s:

1. Huntsville, Ala.—"This northern Alabama city represents critical mass for the nation’s missile-defense and aerospace industries as well as medical and life-sciences sectors. In addition, Huntsville owes much of its red-blooded vitality to the U.S. Army, which employs more than 14,000 people at the 38,000-acre Redstone Arsenal.

2. Albuquerque, N.M.—"Albuquerque’s desire to bring good jobs to its residents is represented by its budding film industry, which has grown from 100 people eight years ago to 3,000 today, many of whom are locals trained for the new jobs. It’s had even more success in attracting companies in the solar-energy industry—such as Schott North America, which has its flagship solar-panel plant in the area.

3. Washington, D.C.—"The federal government employs one in eight workers in the Washington area and fuels nearby companies in almost every industry—law firms, lobbyists, and aerospace and defense companies in particular. High-tech firms in northern Virginia and biotech companies in Maryland offer many employment opportunities.

4. Charlottesville, Va.—"From the University of Virginia to the downtown promenade, the Charlottesville community is an unexpected blend of Southern charm and liberal edge with a strong business base. UVA employs one-fourth of the local workforce—and the faculty’s research often results in private spinoff companies.

5. Athens, Ga.—"The Classic City is home to the University of Georgia, the city’s largest employer. It is also a hub of regional medical services, including Athens Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Health Care System, and Landmark Hospital, providing health care and jobs not only for the community but also for nearby counties. International manufacturing companies, such as Carrier and DuPont, also have operations in Athens.

6. Olympia, Wash.—"Employing about half of the city’s working population, the state government is the keystone of Olympia’s economy. Education is another big driver of the city’s growth and character. Evergreen State College, a liberal-arts school specializing in the social sciences and visual and performing arts, helps fuel the creative spirit, and Saint Martin’s University, a private school located in neighboring Lacey, is known for engineering and applied sciences.

7. Madison, Wis.—"With a jobless rate three percentage points below the national average, Madison’s ready-made economy feeds off of its two largest assets: the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin state capital. But these two institutions account for only 20% of Madison’s jobs; the rest come from its strong mix of tech and biotech firms.

8. Austin, Texas—"Last year, the Texas capital added 3,300 jobs, the biggest bump in the country. The increase covered a broad swath, from professional services, education and hospitality to health care and government. Give most of the credit to government and higher education. State government employs 170,000, a fifth of the city’s workforce, and the University of Texas at Austin alone employs more than 6,000 people.

9. Flagstaff, Ariz.—"The Old West charm of Flagstaff is infused with new energy—both from its residents and from the college students at Northern Arizona University. The university adds jobs to the city’s economy, plus arts and entertainment to its cultural scene. The government is big business in Flagstaff (which is the Coconino County seat), as is tourism—a result of the city’s proximity to the Grand Canyon."

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