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
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