10 Cities for the New Economic Reality
By John Persinos
After the worst economic slump since the Great , corporate profits are up, credit is loosening and business growth is improving. Yet in many cities, healthier economic indicators aren’t translating into robust job growth. Welcome to the new economic reality.
These urban meccas boast high rates of entrepreneurship, low tax burdens and affordable prices. All score favorably in terms of employment, compared to the national unemployment rate of 9.7%. Here they are, ranked according to their unemployment rate.
10) Seattle, Washington
Unemployment rate: 8.6%
While Seattle is famed for the "grunge movement" and its ubiquitous coffee bars, you don’t need a grubby flannel shirt to live here. Nestled amid stunning natural beauty, Seattle is home to many biotech and health care companies, as well as aviation/aerospace giant Boeing (one of the city's major employers). Technology also dominates here -- many Internet start-ups are providing a constant boost of adrenaline to this already caffeinated city.
9) Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Unemployment rate: 8.6%
This picturesque city by the shore of Lake Michigan is a pleasant place for families. Ringed by parks and stately homes, it has been siphoning "big city" jobs away from Chicago, which is a more expensive and frenetic place to live. Once known as a brewing and old-line manufacturing town, Milwaukee has escaped "Rust Belt" status by renovating its waterfronts with bistros and chic shopping areas, as well as by encouraging the construction of condos and new skyscrapers. Health care, energy and environmental companies are the big employers.
8) Boston, Massachusetts
Unemployment rate: 8.4%
This historic city, with its storied past as the cradle of the American Revolution, is a diverse mix of neighborhoods and ethnic enclaves. Almost European in its flavor, architecture and lifestyle, Boston is known as the "livable city." And with good reason: It’s the hub for countless institutions of higher learning (home to more than 100 colleges and universities), medicine, research and technology. All that collective brainpower has created high-tech and bio-tech spin-offs along its famed Route 128 technology corridor. Nearby mountains and beaches, combined with beautiful parks and landscaping, make Boston a jewel of a place to live.
7) Baltimore, Maryland
Unemployment rate: 8.2%
Baltimore is a historic city with charming neighborhoods and a revitalized harbor area. It has evolved into a major tourist destination and many once-blighted neighborhoods have gentrified and are now attracting ambitious young professionals, many of who commute to nearby Washington, DC. Growing education and professional services, as well as government contractors along the Capital Beltway, provide robust employment for this unique city.
6) Richmond, Virginia
Unemployment rate: 7%
With the nation’s capital only two hours away, Richmond benefits from the federal government’s job generation, but boasts a lower cost of living and a more genteel, old Southern charm. Public accounting, service industries and manufacturing are the bedrock of its economy. Local military bases, combined with defense contracting, provide a steady stream of employment to the River City.
5) Austin, Texas
Unemployment rate: 6.9%
Compared to the rest of the Lone Star state, this Texas city definitely marches to the beat of a different drum. Hip and incredibly vibrant, Austin is home to the prestigious University of Texas and is famous for its music scene and downtown atmosphere. It’s also a center for "knowledge industry" jobs, with Dell, National Instruments and IBM topping the list of the city's major employers. Dotted with beautiful parks and quiet, safe neighborhoods, Austin is an intellectual city that still knows how to have a lot of fun.
4) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Unemployment rate: 6.5%
The city once famous for pollution-producing steel mills has seen a major turnaround. Today’s Pittsburgh is a high-tech haven, laced with industrial parks and private-public partnerships that stimulate entrepreneurship and high-paying technology jobs. The largest employer is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Banking and education are also strong employers that add vibrancy to this city, which no longer relies on its former mainstay of steel making.
3) Washington, D.C.
Unemployment rate: 5.6%
Uncle Sam and its massive bureaucracy and maze of agencies keep D.C.'s unemployment level low. The federal government also propels jobs in the defense and legal industries. Prestigious educational institutions, such as Georgetown University, add culture and provide a steady supply of well-educated workers. The cost of living is a bit high, but then again, so are the salaries. The Washington Metroplex has become a multicultural magnet that attracts young and energetic professionals who are enticed by the area’s many restaurants, museums and parks.
2) Madison, Wisconsin
Unemployment rate: 5.6%
This lovely city has come a long way since earning the reputation as a radical hotbed during the 1960s. Its major attraction remains the University of Wisconsin, which enhances local culture and generates a myriad of interrelated jobs. The school’s technology adjunct, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, serves as an entrepreneurial "incubator" for high-tech innovation and company spin-offs. The local economy is vibrant and diverse, with a mix of small and large companies, fueled by scientific research. Enhancing the package is a low cost of living and family-friendly environments -- perfect for raising kids.
1) Omaha, Nebraska
Unemployment rate: 5.5%
Warren Buffet’s hometown is at the top of the list, which should make the "Oracle of Omaha" proud. Marked by a rich pioneer heritage and a legacy as a cow town, Omaha today is a world corporate center. You’ll still find lots of guys wearing cowboy hats here, but they’re also likely to be lugging laptops. Omaha has another thing going for it: The cost of living there is cheap, cheap, cheap.
This quintessential Midwestern place, once better know for Conestoga wagons, is now home to five Fortune 500 companies: ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific Corporation, Mutual of Omaha, Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc., and Buffett’s own Berkshire Hathaway. Omaha is also home to four Fortune 1000 headquarters: TD Ameritrade, West Corporation, Valmont Industries, and Werner Enterprises. Meanwhile, First National Bank of Omaha is the largest privately held bank in the U.S.