Is your city one of Milken Institute’s best-performing cities?

The Milken Institute released its list of top-performing cities in 2023 — see if your city made the top 50 and how it earned its ranking.

A blue pen hovers over a paper with blurry multi-colored bars and line plots.

We’re charting a course to a high-performing city.

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Curious exactly how strong your city’s economy is? A nonprofit think tank called The Milken Institute released its “Best-Performing Cities of 2023 Index” which provides an objective evaluation of the economic performance and resiliency of over 400 US cities.

See how your city ranked.

How the ranking is determined

The Milken Institute ranks cities based on 12 indicators of economic growth and access to opportunities — namely, employment + wages, technology, housing affordability, broadband access, and GDP growth. (Did you know? GDP stands for “gross domestic product” — or the final value of the goods + services made in an area.)

Read the full methodology.

Select top 50 cities

Let’s take a closer look at some of the cities that made the list.

Austin, TX

Austin maintained its No. 2 ranking this year, after climbing from its previous slot at No. 3 in 2021. That’s due in part to its consistently strong labor market. The city’s economy has bounced back after the onset of the pandemic — regaining all jobs lost in March and April 2020 by the end of 2021. Overall, Austin’s jobs and wages have grown rapidly over the past five years and was applauded for its impressive tech scene. Austin’s high-tech GDP score climbed from No. 21 to No. 18 this year.

With respect to housing, Austin offers the most households with access to broadband service among all the top-ranking cities on the Milken list. However, it also has one of the most competitive housing markets in the country. As a result, Austin’s housing affordability rank slid to No. 143.

Asheville, NC

Asheville was praised by the Milken Institute for having “experienced the most notable gain.” The city shot up a whopping 118 places to No. 47 this year — due in no small part to the leisure and hospitality industry’s 37.4% growth in 2021.

It is estimated that 10 million people visit the area each year — and spend ~$2.6 billion.

Fort Worth, TX

Fort Worth’s overall rank came in at No. 44. Not too shabby, given the competition was ~200 cities of its size. Fort Worth scored moderately well in terms of job growth (No. 61 for 2020-2021) and wage growth (No. 88 for 2020-21). But it hit the top ten in terms of its short-term job growth — in that regard, Fort Worth ranked No. 9. Check out Fort Worth’s major industries.

Fort Worth’s access to broadband service also helped cinch its ranking — it hit the top tier at No. 49. Checks out. In 2022, the city of Fort Worth expanded access to its public Wi-Fi to 40,000 residents.

Lakeland, FL

Lakeland and Winter Haven ranked at No. 36. This Tier Two rank came in part due to its job growth (No. 6 for 2020-2021) and wage growth (No. 22 for 2020-21).

Its tech scene seems to drive these rates with a high-tech GDP ranking of No. 30 for 2020-2021. Tech yeah. In 2020, information technology produced $200 million in GDP for Polk County.

San Diego, CA

San Diego ascended four ranks this year from No. 42 to No. 38 . This reflects a general upward trend, from No. 49 in 2021.

Most impressive is its rank for LQ count (think: concentration of businesses in the area). San Diego nabbed the No. 2 rank, coming in behind Anaheim. Impressive. And its high-tech concentration ranked in the top ten at No. 7. Makes sense given the area is home to tech giants like General Atomics. Check out San Diego’s other major players and top industries.

Looking at the index’s economic opportunities category, San Diego’s highest rank was in broadband access at No. 8. That rank may continue to rise as improving internet access in low-income areas was one of the priorities of the new budget.

Tampa, FL

Tampa held its No. 17 rank from 2022, after rising up 15 spots from 2021. The Tampa and St. Pete area ranks pretty high in terms of job and wage growth — especially when it comes to short-term job growth (think: total employment rates from October 2021-2022).

But the Tampa Bay area particularly grew in terms of technology. The area’s high-tech GDP rank shot up to 37 from its previous score of 68. Over the past five years, the number of businesses in the IT industry increased by 27%.

Tech growth seems directly tied to employment. In the tech sector alone, the Tampa Bay Region experienced a 30% jump in job growth.

Select improved ranks

Rank isn’t everything. Sometimes improvement is the most essential marker. Here are some cities that proved they were on the rise this year.

Boston, MA

Boston shot up 39 ranks this year. The city made the move from No. 114 in 2022 to No. 75 in 2023.

This seems partially due to improvements in job growth — up from 146 to 92. Other areas, like housing affordability and wage growth, sunk in ratings. But Boston is in the top tier when it comes to the concentration of high-tech companies. In that regard, Boston ranks No. 39. Boston is home to a couple major players in the tech industry — like Amazon and Raytheon to name a few.

Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis rose eight ranks in 2023. It went from No. 77 to No. 69 this year — bringing it closer to its No. 56 rank in 2021.

Most impressive are Indy’s improvements when it comes to housing affordability. In 2022, the area ranked No. 61 in housing affordability. This year, it shot up to the top tier at No. 24. This has made Indianapolis a hot spot for Gen Z homebuyers, bringing in young talent to the city. Thinking about buying a house? Read up on the 2023 real estate predictions.

Louisville, KY

Louisville shot up 18 ranks this year. The city moved from No. 115 to No. 97 due in part to its job growth. Last year, Louisville scored No. 115 in terms of job growth, but this year it cinched the No. 57 spot. Makes sense to us — in 2022 almost 3,700 new jobs came to Louisville-Jefferson County. Check out some of the area’s top employers.

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