Buoyed by strong job and wage growth totals, the Bend area stood alone in 2016 as the best-performing small city in America, according to a study from the Milken Institute.
On Wednesday, the Milken Institute, a California-based economic think tank, released its annual index of the best-performing large and small cities in the country. The 2016 list — the 17th edition of the index, according to Milken Economist Minoli Ratnatunga — ranked the Bend-Redmond Metropolitan Statistical Area, which comprises all of Deschutes County, first among 201 small metropolitan areas.
Ratnatunga said the index incorporates nine metrics that focus on job growth, wage growth and high-tech industry development to create a snapshot of a metropolitan area’s economic performance. The Bend-Redmond area ranked in the top 30 among small metropolitan areas for seven of the nine metrics.
“Really, it’s an endorsement of the work that’s already being done in Bend,” Ratnatunga said.
The Bend area fared best in metrics focused on recent economic performance. The metro area ranked first in job growth from 2014 to 2015, with industries like hospitality and health care leading the way, according to Ratnatunga. The city also ranked fourth in wage growth from 2013 to 2014, the most recent year data was available.
The index also factors in the size and strength of the high-technology sectors in each metropolitan area. Bend, despite being only slightly over the national average for tech-sector density, ranked 13th among small metros in 2016, as Ratnatunga said the technology industry is heavily concentrated in larger cities.
“Even making the national average puts you near the top of the list of small cities,” Ratnatunga said.
As the Bend area puts the Great Recession farther in the rear-view mirror, it has shot up the Milken Institute’s list of small cities. Bend ranked 46th on the 2014 edition of the index and came in eighth among small cities last year.
While there is no guarantee Bend will continue to top the list in future years, Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, said lists like the Milken Institute’s paint an encouraging picture of the region to companies that might be looking to relocate.
“It’s an indicator that there’s a whole lot more happening here than even people in Oregon realize,” Lee said.
Elsewhere in the state, Portland dropped six spots on the list of best-performing large cities, from eighth to 14th.
Eugene ranked 90th on the same list. Grants Pass and Medford each made the top 20 among small metros nationally, ranking eighth and 17th, respectively.
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