Boulder was one of three Colorado cities to land among the top 10 metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) on Area Development’s Leading Locations 2015 study, with the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield ranking No. 1 nationwide and the other four cities making an appearance on the list of 373 MSAs.
Area Development analyzed economic and workforce data for 373 MSAs to determine which U.S. cities are creating jobs and nurturing sustainable economic development. Eight of the top 10 MSAs were in the West, with two each in California and Texas and one in Washington State.
In its fifth year of doing the Leading Locations study, Area Development ranked the cities based on prime work force, economic strength, year-over-year growth and “recession-busting” attributes — are all critical factors for business leaders to assess when considering a location or expansion, Area Development reports.
With nearly 300,000 residents, No. 9-ranked Boulder packs a powerful economic punch, according to Area Development. Key sectors are aerospace, bioscience, clean tech, information technology and software.
“With the University of Colorado-Boulder, a top research university, and 17 federally funded research laboratories, Boulder has a reputation for innovation and scientific leadership,” Area Development reports, noting that leading companies such as Google, IBM, Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic/Covidien, and Micro Motion draw from CU’s skilled graduates.
“As a result, Boulder is home to one of the most highly educated and entrepreneurial populations in the country,” according to Area Development
According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers/ National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) MoneyTree Report™, over the past five years more than $850 million has been invested in Boulder companies, representing more than one quarter of the total venture capital investment in Colorado firms, Area Development reports. And so far that momentum has carried over into 2015 — five of the 23 venture capital deals in Colorado during the first quarter of 2015 involve Boulder companies, totaling $28 million.
With a population of almost 2.7 million, the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield MSA had an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent in January, a reflection of the 46,200 jobs Denver added in 2014. The metro is expecting another 45,000 new jobs in 2015, representing a 3 percent growth rate.
Area Development says that all three cities have similar diverse economies, including advanced manufacturing and other high-tech industries like aerospace, telecommunications, biotechnology and clean energy. And metropolitan Denver and the Northern Colorado corridor combined rank sixth in the country for clean-energy employment. Denver is also emerging as a financial services center with WorldRemit, a London-based financial services firm, recently announcing it would open a North American headquarters and operations center in Denver.
“Denver offers the perfect combination of a highly skilled workforce, supportive local authority and idyllic location,” says WorldRemit CEO Ismail Ahmed. “The city is gaining a reputation as a go-to destination for the burgeoning financial-tech sector and stealing the thunder of New York and Silicon Valley.”
Greeley (Weld County), the second-highest-ranked Colorado city at No. 4, is the second-largest city in Northern Colorado and operates as a major retail trade center for agricultural producers in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. The market value of agricultural products for Greeley and surrounding Weld County is about $1.5 billion annually.
Greeley is also in the heart of Colorado oil country — its second key industry. According to statistics cited in the June 2014 U.S. Metro Economies by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Greeley was ranked as one of the leading cities for future economic growth — about 4.8 percent, which is almost twice that of the U.S., according to Area Development.
Investment continues in agriculture and energy with Leprino Foods, a producer of mozzarella cheese, constructing an 800,000-square-foot plant that will employ 500 people and its milk needs will boost the local dairy herd population by 60,000 animals.
When it comes to energy, Weld County has more oil and gas well permits than any other county in Colorado. The wide-open plains around Greeley are ideal for generating wind energy, so much so that local wind turbine manufacturer Vestas is hiring 400 new workers to expand production at its Windsor facility, just a few miles from Greeley.
Here’s a look at how all seven of Colorado’s metros rank on the Leading Locations 2015 study:
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