Fourth Economy Index

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View the current FEC Index [ Released March 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

The Pittsburgh-based Fourth Economy Consulting this week released its list of 10 “large-sized communities” poised for economic growth across the country, and Maine’s Cumberland County ranked sixth. The so-called Fourth Economy Communities were rated based on a variety of factors often seen as precursors to — or drivers of — economic growth, such as wage figures, employment numbers, education levels, entrepreneurship, minority business ownership, property values, population densities and a number of other things.


Fourth Economy announced it selected Dane County for its Economy Community Index for Mega-Sized Counties for 2015. The report highlights “communities ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.”


An economic consulting firm has highlighted Stearns County as a community ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth. On Tuesday, Pittsburgh-based Fourth Economy Consulting ranked Stearns County as the tenth large-sized community in the nation poised to achieve sustainable growth while attracting people and business. Stearns County was compared to communities of similarly sized population.


A Pittsburgh-based economic consulting firm on Friday ranked Chittenden County as tops among the nation's most promising medium-sized business communities. Among communities with populations between 150,000 and 499,999, Vermont's most developed region (with a population of approximately 159,000) is "poised to achieve sustainable economic growth while attracting people and investment," according to a news release from 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.


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.


Published annually by Fourth Economy Consulting of Pittsburgh, the Fourth Economy Index identifies those counties that are “ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.”


The latest release of the "Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index" was announced recently, 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 and Kalamazoo County is on the list. 


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