Raleigh, Fayetteville surge, Durham slips in think tank's index

Raleigh climbed, Durham fell and Fayetteville surged in the latest Milken Institute's Best-Performing Cities Index.

Posted Updated
OLDRaleigh skyline (downtown Raleigh)
RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh climbed, Durham fell and Fayetteville surged in the latest Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities Index.

While lists of “best places” to live and work are increasing in number faster than anyone can truly track, the Milken study is a true headliner. The California-based think tank relies heavily on high-tech industry data in formulating its index, insisting that technology is the crucial ingredient for future growth.

So the jump by the Raleigh metro area, which also includes Cary, to seventh from 10th place certainly is encouraging for business and community leaders, especially since high tech is stressed so heavily in the Triangle and areas nearby. Plus, Milken gives a boost to locals after a report earlier this week dropped the capital area metro to near the bottom of the top 100 metros in a survey of income growth.

Durham, unfortunately, slipped from its lofty perch of sixth in 2009 to 15th in the new report.

Fayetteville, meanwhile, rose sharply to 18th from 31st, thanks in large part to the growing military presence at Fort Bragg and a related growth in the city’s surging high-tech industry.

“Researchers found that metros whose economies are heavy on service industries such as health care and on large government employers like military bases have been shielded from the job losses suffered by cities more closely tied to the housing and financial sectors,” the Institute noted.

The “Best Performing” index is based on a compilation of five-year and one-year data for factors such as employment, salary growth, and what the Institute calls “technology output growth” spread across four specific categories.

So what are the lessons to be learned from the Index?

“The Great Recession has taken a toll on many cities,” said Ross DeVol, executive director of economic research at the Milken Institute, in summarizing the report’s results. “But those that are sustaining their job markets are doing so through a good mix of high-tech industries, favorable business climates and diversified service-sector industries. These are definite lessons for how American metros can be prepared to survive economic turmoil.”

Other N.C. rankings

The news is much worse for the rest of North Carolina with the state’s stumbling economy dragging down:

  • Wilmington to 51st from 34th
  • Charlotte to 62nd from 47th
  • Asheville to 106th from 75th
  • Winston-Salem to 119th from 75th
  • Greensboro-High Point to 176th from 154th
  • Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton to 197th from 185th

The top 10

Among a study for small metros, Jacksonville appears at No. 4, having not even being listed a year ago. Like Fayetteville, Jacksonville is benefiting from a growing military presence courtesy of the U.S. Marines.

Goldsboro, which features Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and its wing of F-15E Strike Eagles, appears at 84. Goldsboro didn’t appear in the 2009 report either.

Other small metros:

  • Greenville remains 41st
  • Burlington is 120th, down from 75th
  • Rocky Mount faltered to 148th from 78th

Texas dominates in report

Texas, meanwhile, dominated the overall report with 11 of the top 25 spots. Milken said the Texas performance was “unprecedented” in its domination of the annual report. Here are the top 10 metros with 2009 ranking in parenthesis:

  1. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX (2)
  2. Austin-Round Rock, TX (1)
  3. Huntsville, AL (8)
  4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX (4)
  5. Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, WA (n.a.)
  6. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (25)
  7. Raleigh-Cary, NC (10)
  8. Anchorage, AK (40)
  9. El Paso, TX (14)
  10. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX (5)


Rick Smith, Reporter

Copyright 2022 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.