Fourth Economy Index

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View the current FEC Index [ Released December 2015 ]

View previous FEC Index releases

Competition among communities for new talent and responsible investment is fierce. The Fourth Economy team has worked on various community and economic development projects across the country. We have witnessed firsthand the ways that communities and organizations are responding to their new economic reality. We continue to learn a lot about how and why competitive communities attract sustainable investment in the “fourth economy.”

We are building upon these experiences to launch the Fourth Economy Community Index (#FECIndex). This is not another stale “best places” ranking. Rather, this index will serve as a high level dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain sustainable investment.

The Fourth Economy Community Index will examine both statistical and qualitative factors at the County level within five areas: 1) Investment, 2) Talent, 3) Sustainability, 4) Place, and 5) Diversity. Our experience suggests that these five areas serve as a foundation for future economic success.

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How Does the FEC Index Work?

Our team has divided all of the U.S. counties into four classification categories based on population: Mega-, Large-, Mid-, and Small-size categories.

Key data are collected 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.

FEC Index Current Map


View FEC Index Counties in a larger map

FEC Index in the News

Chester County has been recognized as the fifth best county in the United States as a community “ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth among all regions with a population greater than 500,000.”  The ranking was issued as part of the Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index by national economic development consultants Fourth Economy Consulting.




Chester County’s talent, community investment, sustainability, sense of place, and diversity have made it one of the nation’s top ten mega-sized Fourth Economy Communities. Fourth Economy Consulting placed Chester County at number five on its latest  national community index, which lists the nation’s top communities of over 500,000 people. The firm said the listing on the index means the county is ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth within the fourth economy.


It’s a community that’s also been ranked as the most ethnically diverse in the country. Is there a connection? “It’s a series of factors that come together to really make a place viable and attractive for investment,” said Steven McKnight with the Pittsburgh-based consulting firm, Fourth Economy.


The Fourth Economy Community Index ranked Lexington the top Mid-sized community because it is ideally positioned to attract modern investment and manage economic growth. The index measured investment, talent, sustainability, place, and diversity.






Greensburg officials want the district to spark development and to “enhance the charm and character of the residential neighborhoods,” according to the proposal. Urban, which will be working with Fourth Economy Consulting of Pittsburgh, will be paid $85,000 from grant and foundation money, said Steve Gifford, executive director of the Greensburg Community Development Corp., which is involved in the project.


A panel discussion on “The Responsible Use of Water in Industry” will include Steve McKnight, of Fourth Economy Consulting; Sam Johnson, director of Water Asset Development for CONSOL Energy; Doug Wyatt of the National Energy Technology Laboratory; and Jack Adams and Leo Zappa of Calgon Carbon.


At the County level, the FEC Index divides communities into micro-, small-, mid-, and large-sized counties. Fourth Economy then evaluates five areas; Investment, talent, sustainability, place, and diversity.


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