Toledo shot ahead 49 spots in the Milken Institute’s annual index of the Best Performing American Cities to its highest rating in the last decade.
At 131st out of 200 metro areas, the Glass City still has a long way to go to get near the top of the list, but the improvement was among the best by any city in 2013.
As in many similar studies, the strength in the automotive sector was one of the leading reasons for Toledo’s improvement.
“The recovery in auto parts manufacturing, as well as the manufacturing industry in general, contributed to Toledo’s score,” said Minoli Ratnatunga, a Milken Institute economist.
Milken ranks cities by looking at job growth, wage improvement, and technology through a mix of five-year measures and one-year measures.
Employment growth is most heavily weighted in the rankings. By that measure, Toledo was 85th from 2011 to 2012. The metro area also ranked within the top 100 in short-term job growth.
At its core, the index is meant to show where jobs are being created and sustained across the nation.
Ms. Ratnatunga said transportation equipment manufacturing added more than 1,000 jobs in 2012. Toledo could anticipate another boost in next year’s index when the more than 1,800 jobs added this year at Chrysler Group LLC’s Toledo Assembly complex are included.
Metro areas that tilt toward technology and the service industry tend to be more stable and higher ranked than those heavily reliant on manufacturing.
The best metro area as ranked by Milken was Austin. Provo, Utah, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Salt Lake City rounded out the top five.
Though the institute doesn’t use education levels to generate its rankings, there’s clearly a correlation.
“That doesn’t go directly into our ranking, but it’s an area where we see a trend in the cities that are performing well. They tend to have educated populations, they often have universities that are a center for innovation and tech, and small business growth there,” Ms. Ratnatunga said.
That’s an area in which Toledo could improve. Ms. Ratnatunga said in metro Toledo, 24 percent of people have a bachelor’s degree, compared to the national average of 29 percent. Top-performing metro areas tended to be well above that.
Still, Toledo fared well in high-tech GDP growth. Over the last five years, the metro area ranked 79th out of 200.
Columbus improved 16 spots in the 2013 list to 37th, which was best among Ohio’s metro areas. The Canton area moved up 37 spots to 112th, while Cincinnati fell 24 spots to 113th. Akron improved to 141st, and Cleveland improved to 147th.
Dayton fell 55 spots to 172nd. Youngstown dropped 23 spots to 181st.
Detroit was ranked 167th.
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