The best place for a career in 2014

Raleigh Job Growth

I love “best places to live” studies and research, because I think it’s a fundamental question of the next generation coming up in the workplace. The Utah and Colorado areas always tend to do very well, and you can also look at the data to figure out where people are moving (and moving away from).

Here’s some new stuff, via Forbes, that indicates Raleigh-Durham is the No. 1 place for businesses and having a career in 2014:

Fueling Raleigh’s consistent results are business costs that are 18% below the national average, and an adult population where 42% have a college degree, the 12th best rate in the U.S. (30% is the national average). Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University and nearby schools include Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The area’s appeal has led to a strong inflow of new residents to the city, which boasts the sixth fastest net migration rate over the past five years.

Research Triangle Park continues to fuel significant development in the area. The park is located at the core of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Area, and it is the largest research park in the country. It features roughly 170 companies that employ 39,000 full-time, mostly high-tech workers. There have been 1,800 start-up companies created at RTP since 1970.

Raleigh was third last year, and Des Moines was first; Des Moines is now second, and Provo, Utah is third. Interestingly, three Utah cities are the top 11 — Provo, then Salt Lake City at No. 8 and Ogden at No. 11. I say “interestingly” because people tend to associate Utah with beautiful mountains and Mormonism — and perhaps Stockton-to-Malone — but not necessarily with business. That said, they’ve got way-better-than-expected public transportation in SLC, for a western red state.

Fort Collins and Denver, both obviously in Colorado, are 4/5 in this Forbes study.

Here’s the landing page for what they did, and here’s the methodology.

The overall thing they do to calculate this is:

We consider 12 metrics relating to job growth (1-year, 5-year and projected 3-year), costs (business and living), income growth over the past five years, educational attainment (college and high school) and projected economic growth through 2016. We also factor in net migration patterns over the past five years, as well as cultural and recreational opportunities. Lastly we included the number of highly ranked colleges in an area per our annual college rankings. We give the most weighting to business costs and educational attainment in the overall ranking.

There’s probably one big lesson here if you’re looking to develop/expand your city, or if you’re looking for a place to locate your business. For the longest time, the model was “Wait for a city to give tax breaks, and then flood the zone.” Now the model seems to be: “What areas have access to the highest-quality potential talent?” Think about it: the areas that topped this study are all near research hubs. RTP in Raleigh is near Duke, UNC, NC State, and others. Des Moines is near most Big 10 universities, and very close to both UIowa and Iowa State. Provo and SLC have BYU, University of Utah, etc. And Fort Collins-Denver-Boulder area have University of Colorado, Colorado State, and more. This is all part of how the Bay Area became “the thing” — Stanford, Berkeley, et al — or how Indianapolis might.

Another interesting thing here is this idea: a lot of these places — especially the Utah/Colorado areas, but to some extent Raleigh (although not Des Moines) — are places where people go, not necessarily places where people are from. There’s an insularity aspect to that discussion. I’ve always assumed/thought — and heard periodically in research — that places like Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco (where everyone seems to be from somewhere else) are easier to do business because more ideas are flying (less insularity and comfort). Places like Minneapolis and Des Moines, where people tend to be from there, can be harder to do business in. That could all be bullshit. Point is: interesting to consider that some of the “best cities to do business” are also cities that people migrate to, as opposed to staying in.

Ted Bauer

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