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)
- 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.
- 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)
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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.