Top 10 Mid-Sized Counties in the US

We see the Fourth Economy Community Index as a starting point for communities, providing a baseline to help understand where they are doing well and see where there is room for improvement.

We envision using the information:

  • When developing an RFP to create specific strategies to improve your community
  • To lead community discussions about areas of relative strength and weakness
  • To inform presentations to stakeholders about the state of your community
  • To compare your community to top ten communities of the same size

The Index model incorporates twenty different indicators in the areas of Investment, Talent, Sustainability, Place, and Diversity. While we know there is no single recipe for economic success, we also know that these five areas are critical ingredients in vibrant communities everywhere.

What do we mean by each of these?

  • Investment: active businesses, access to capital, and investment in physical infrastructure
  • Talent: a growing workforce with education and job skills, equipped to excel in high-wage opportunities
  • Sustainability: transportation, land use, and environmental conditions that promote healthier lifestyles and a healthier planet
  • Place: affordable housing and transportation options that provide access to recreational and cultural amenities
  • Diversity: personal and professional interaction across lines of race/ethnicity, age, and wealth

Top 10 Mid-Sized Counties in the US (50K – 150K)

  1. Minnehaha County, SD (Sioux Falls)

Minnehaha County, South Dakota, has strengths in Place, Investment, and Talent, and has experienced a whopping 8% growth in population over the past five years. Along with the increase in the population of Minnehaha and the Sioux Falls area, the county also has a robust business community and has seen increasing development to meet demand, as illustrated by the blossoming communities around Sioux Falls.

  1. Platte County, MO

Home to Kansas City International Airport, Platte County, MO specializes in Management of Companies & Enterprises; Transportation & Warehousing; and Information industries. The county scores above average across all measures and in the top ten percent for place and talent. With top educational systems, significant investment in recreational amenities, and a strong workforce, the small communities found in Platte County appeal to those seeking a small town feel.

 Tompkins County, NY (Ithaca)

  1. Tompkins County, NY (Ithaca)

Tompkins County, NY, (home to Ithaca’s Cornell University) offers a supportive environment for entrepreneurship and business development. The county offers revolving loan funds to projects that cannot be financed by conventional sources and tourism capital grants to support capital projects at tourism destinations in the county. These focus areas, matched by top ten percent scores in sustainability and place, give Tompkins County a spot on our top ten list.

  1. Albemarle County, VA

Albemarle County surrounds Charlottesville and scores highly across all categories, with an especially high score in talent. The score in talent is aided by the quality public school system as well as post-secondary opportunities that include the University of Virginia and Piedmont Virginia Community College. An abundance of cultural, historical, and leisure opportunities make Albemarle County a place that people want to live, work, and play.

  1. Orange County, NC (Chapel Hill)

Part of the Research Triangle, Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina. With above average scores across all categories, Chapel Hill scores highest in talent. Recent economic development targets include output of Medical School, Pharmacy School (and research), Applied Sciences and Technology. A main component of the area’s economic strategy is strengthening the connection “between town and gown.”

5. Kauai County, HI

  1. Kauai County, HI

Located in a beautiful island setting, Kauai County, Hawaii, ranks in the top 10 percent in diversity and investment. The mission of the county’s office of economic development is, in partnership with the community, to create economic opportunities towards the development of a healthy, stable and balanced economy for the residents. Above average scores in talent, place, and sustainability round out Kauai County’s overall success in the Index model.

  1. Burleigh County, ND (Bismarck)

Bismarck—the capital of North Dakota—ranks highly in investment, talent, and place. Bismarck has become one of the fastest-growing small cities in the United States. The city is the economic hub of North Dakota, with high levels of employment in state government, healthcare, and professional service industries.

  1. La Plata County, CO (Durango)

Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains, Durango and La Plata County rank top ten percent in place. Main Avenue in Downtown is a Nationally Registered Historic District that cuts through downtown Durango and is home to galleries, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and other businesses. The Animas river runs through downtown and provides residents and visitors with recreation opportunities. The area has a reputation as a small-business incubator and prides itself on economic growth through attracting entrepreneurs and small businesses.

  1. Gallatin County, MT (Bozeman)

Bozeman and surrounding Gallatin County rank second among mid-sized counties by scoring in the top ten percent of investment, talent, and place. Adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman is a favorite of travelers and locals for its quality of life, scenery, and nearby recreation.

  1. Dallas County, IA

Outside of Des Moines, IA, Dallas County makes the top mid-sized spot for its excellent scores in place, investment, and talent. The county is the fastest growing in Iowa. The Greater Dallas County Development Alliance is a strong organization that advances the positive impact on economic, social, and environmental aspects of the region. Finance, education, sustainability, membership, and marketing committees take a holistic approach to protecting and enhancing economic, social, and environmental resources.

 

Click Here to Explore Fourth Economy Community Index

Ready, Set, Survey…

Survey-Tailgate

As summer BBQs turn to fall tailgates, how often do you find that neighborly backyard burger flipping leads to discussions on how great your town is or how much better it could be.  Sure there is always room for improvement, but ever wonder how those opinions and impressions sync-up with the facts.  Sometimes we are too hard on our own community when it may really be doing quite well, while other times it is heading for a cliff that nobody seems to notice or care.  In either case, gaining a better understanding of how impressions align with the facts is a good starting point for long-term strategic planning. Continue reading “Ready, Set, Survey…”

Fourth Economy Releases 2015 County-by-County Competitiveness Analysis for Pennsylvania

PA-County-Competitiveness-Analysis-FEC-IndexNew analysis highlights the economic competitiveness of counties across the Commonwealth.

HARRISBURG, PA – Fourth Economy Consulting today announced the release of the 2015 Pennsylvania County Competitive Analysis, an assessment of how counties across the Commonwealth are performing economically. At the core, the analysis is based on the company’s Fourth Economy Community Index, which examines both statistical and qualitative factors at the county-level across the U.S. within the economic factors of investment, talent, sustainability, place, and diversity. Continue reading “Fourth Economy Releases 2015 County-by-County Competitiveness Analysis for Pennsylvania”

National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top Ten Large-Sized Counties

141204-FECIndex

Fourth Economy Consulting announces the latest release of its national community index, listing top counties from across the nation. The Fourth Economy Index highlights those communities ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth within the fourth economy.

PITTSBURGH, PA – The latest edition of the Fourth Economy Community Index was announced today, recognizing the top ten large-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities—with populations between 150,000 and 499,999—were selected because they represent regions that are poised to achieve sustainable economic growth while attracting people and investment.


Continue reading “National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top Ten Large-Sized Counties”

National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Mega-Sized Counties for 2015

141204-FECIndexFourth Economy Consulting announces the latest release of its national community index, listing top counties from across the nation. The Fourth Economy Index highlights those communities ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth within the fourth economy.

PITTSBURGH, PA – The latest release of the Fourth Economy Community Index (FEC Index, #FECIndex) was announced today listing the nation’s top ten mega-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are recognized as the regions ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth among all regions with a population greater than 500,000 people.
Continue reading “National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Mega-Sized Counties for 2015”

Three Lessons Learned in the Past Three Years

130909-Turning-ThreeWe are celebrating our 3rd corporate birthday this week and it provides an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learned. First, the pace of economic and community development continues to quicken as major global shifts drive business and social planning. Three years ago we were all worrying about the long-term impacts of the great recession, as unemployment was 9.6% with little sign of an end. Today, in many sectors we are working on strategies to not just keep the domestic jobs growing but also to bring them back by ‘making it in America’. As we have been saying for the past three years, the economic and community development toolbox must expand to include new models of planning for place, new types of infrastructure, and most importantly the people in our communities. Continue reading “Three Lessons Learned in the Past Three Years”

National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Large-Sized Counties for 2013

Fourth Economy Consulting announces the latest release of its national community index, listing top counties from across the nation. The Fourth Economy Index highlights those communities ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth within the fourth economy.

PITTSBURGH, PA – The latest release of the “Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index” was announced today listing the nation’s top 10 large-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are those ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.

The “fourth economy” characterizes the most recent phase of our nation’s economy, reflecting a combination of the previous three to include agrarian, industrial, and technological. This new index is intended to serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment.

“There has never been a more important time for economic and community developers to rethink how we measure economic success,” said Rich Overmoyer, CEO of Fourth Economy Consulting, the economic development firm that created the index in 2011.  “Recent articles in the New York Times and The Atlantic on the use of state incentives to lure big companies reinforces that an outdated model of economic development needs to be evolved to one that considers a broader set of community investment opportunities. The Fourth Economy Index is an attempt to highlight what makes stronger, economically viable communities,” Overmoyer added. Continue reading “National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Large-Sized Counties for 2013”

Community Development in the Fourth Economy: A Year in Review

Our second year as a company has been one of increased community development related work. Much of the work that Fourth Economy has been engaged in has been around traditional, tech-based, and education-based economic development. However, in doing that work, we have realized that one critical component intersects all of those – community development. That realization led to the creation of my position and we have since been working hard to facilitate connections between community and economic development. Continue reading “Community Development in the Fourth Economy: A Year in Review”

Fourth Economy’s Universe

Hello friends and colleagues,

We’ve been so busy that we skipped a month on our e-newsletter, I am sure you filled your time with other pursuits – I’ve seen many of you playing Words with Friends.

We wanted to take a bit of space in this newsletter to provide an update on Fourth Economy Consulting. We are on a steady growth pace since our launch in September 2010 and interest in working with us continues to reinforce that we have struck a chord. We are honored and at times humbled by the reception but please keep it going.

Continue reading “Fourth Economy’s Universe”

National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Mid-Sized Counties for 2012

Fourth Economy Consulting has launched a new index, listing top counties from across the nation. The Fourth Economy Index highlights those communities ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth within the fourth economy.

PITTSBURGH, PA – A newly created “Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index” was released today listing the nation’s top 10 mid-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are those ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.

The “fourth economy” characterizes the nation’s current economic condition, reflecting a combination of the previous three to include agrarian, industrial, and technological. This new index is intended serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment.

“We have worked with numerous communities and economic development organizations across the country and are witnessing first hand the ways communities are responding to the new economic reality,” said Rich Overmoyer, Fourth Economy President and CEO. “We are using these experiences to launch the Fourth Economy Community Index.”

“It is not surprising to see the leading fourth economy counties blend both rural and urban character, offering their residents diverse living and working options,” said Stephen McKnight, Fourth Economy Consulting Vice President of Community and Market Assessments.

“Another common attribute is a geographic association with institutions of higher education, which are the modern engine in the fourth economy. As a result, these communities can provide the talent and place-based strategies that address housing, recreation and amenities for smaller, high-value businesses to thrive,” McKnight added.

About the Fourth Economy Community Index

The Fourth Economy Community Index considers several county-level measures within five areas: 1) Investment, 2) Talent, 3) Sustainability, 4) Place, and 5) Diversity. These five areas serve as a foundation for future economic success to include wage and employment growth, education levels, drive times, home values, minority business ownership, agricultural capacity and population density. The measures are weighted based on the level of influence they have on both internal and external investment decisions.

The FEC Index scores for this listing ranged from 0 to 4.5. They included only mid-sized counties (population of 150,000 to 300,000) with education attainment above 25% and average travel times less than 20 minutes. Beyond the initial FEC Index measures, the analysis also considers the capacity for a community to support innovation. The FEC Index expresses an innovation capacity score as a letter grade, determined by the online source Stats-America. This grade considers factors such as human capital, state policy context and productivity. Fourth Economy Consulting will periodically produce additional Index listings for micro, small and large counties.

The Top 10 Mid-Sized Communities for 2012

#1: Fayette County, Kentucky

  • FEC Index Score: 4.5
  • Innovation Capacity: A-
  • Population: 295,000

Topping the inaugural list for mid-sized counties is Fayette County, Kentucky. Fayette is home to the City of Lexington and is the self proclaimed “Horse Capital of the World.” Recognized as a top bike-friendly location, Fayette offers both high quality place-based amenities along with critical resources to support innovation.

“Lexington-Fayette County’s economic success can be attributed to a vibrant, diversified economy, an entrepreneurial focus, a signature public research institution, and one of America’s most educated workforces,” said Robert L. Quick, President of Commerce Lexington. “Its blend of advanced manufacturing, high-tech transfer efforts, a quality P-16 educational system, innovative health care options, and a strong equine industry help the area to grow and prosper,” Quick added.

In recent years, Lexington has seen major downtown development driven by both the private sector and the University of Kentucky. New housing options and urban amenities are attracting young professionals to the urban core. This trend is bolstered by a “green perimeter” surrounding Lexington. “This is space set aside for horse pastures and agricultural development,” Quick added.

Adding to Fayette County’s attractiveness is a high level of efficiency in its economic development service delivery. “Within the last decade, Lexington’s economic development efforts have been streamlined, with a focus on the customer through a simplified process from start to finish,” Quick noted. “This decision to create a partnership between Commerce Lexington Inc., the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the University of Kentucky has helped accelerate the process for relocating and expanding companies. “

#2: New Hanover County, North Carolina

  • FEC Index Score: 4.4
  • Innovation Capacity: A-
  • Population: 202,000

Home to the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County effectively blends beach with business. New Hanover is flanked by the Atlantic to the east and the Cape Fear River to the west. Thanks to a quaint downtown, improved air access and educational assets including the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the resident population has skyrocketed by 21% since 2000.

#3: Sarpy County, Nebraska

  • FEC Index Score: 3.1
  • Innovation Capacity: B+
  • Population: 159,000

Home to the U.S. Strategic Air Command, Sarpy County is just south of Omaha, Nebraska. While the smallest county by area in Nebraska, it’s the third largest in terms of population. Nestled between the Platt and Missouri rivers, Sarpy serves as an attractive bedroom and small business community to neighboring Omaha and the University of Nebraska.

#4: Brown County, Wisconsin

  • FEC Index Score: 2.3
  • Innovation Capacity: B+
  • Population: 248,000

Yes, this county boasts an NFL team, cheese and infamously brutal winters, but beyond being home to NFL football team Green Bay Packers, Brown County and its largest city Green Bay continues to expand its economic opportunities and urban development projects. While paper and cheese manufacturing remain the key economic drivers, the economy is diversifying. It is a key port town to the Great Lakes and a center for research thanks to the University of Wisconsin.

#5: Greene County, Missouri

  • FEC Index Score: 2.1
  • Innovation Capacity: B-
  • Population: 275,000

Located in the southwestern region of Missouri, Greene County is home to the City of Springfield – “the Gateway to the Ozarks.” In recent years Greene has seen considerable economic growth due to local expansions from majors like Kraft and Expedia. Expedia recently required a local Springfield company called TravelNow.com and merged it with their Hotel.com brand. The firm added 500 new people in the last year making its Springfield location their largest outside of their headquarters in Bellevue, WA.

Rounding out the Top 10…

#6: Greene County, Ohio

  • FEC Index Score: 2.0
  • Innovation Capacity: A-
  • Population: 161,000

#7: Brazos County, Texas

  • FEC Index Score: 1.9
  • Innovation Capacity: A+
  • Population: 195,000

#8: Lancaster County, Nebraska

  • FEC Index Score: 1.8
  • Innovation Capacity: A+
  • Population: 285,000

#9: Lubbock County, Texas

  • FEC Index Score: 1.8
  • Innovation Capacity: B-
  • Population: 279,000

#10: Pitt County, North Carolina

  • FEC Index Score: 1.7
  • Innovation Capacity: B-
  • Population: 168,000