Mesa County jumps 56 spots in ranking of small metro areas

Robin Brown
Robin Brown

Mesa County has jumped more than 50 places in an annual comparison of small metropolitan areas on gains in high-tech output and jobs.

Mesa County ranks 131st overall in the Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index for 2018, up 56 places from last year.

While Mesa County remains in the bottom half of small metro areas in the latest ranking, the county came in 22nd for growth in gross domestic product in the high-tech sector from 2016 to 2017 and 28th for job growth in that span.

The index ranks the Grand Junction metropolitan statistical area, which is the same as Mesa County.

“We’re thrilled to see such massive gains for Grand Junction,” said Robin Brown, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “We still have a ways to go, but this proves that our efforts are working and we are headed in the right direction.”

The Milken Institute takes into account job and wage growth and the output of high-tech companies in ranking large and small metropolitan areas across the United States. The California think tank promotes policies that create jobs, improve access to capital and enhance health.

Mesa County ranked as high as third among small metro areas during what was at the time a natural gas development boom, but has fared less well in the aftermath of downturns in the energy sector and overall economy.

In terms of job growth,  Mesa County ranked 63rd among small metro areas between August 2017 and August 2018, but 104th between 2012 and 2017.

In terms of wage growth, the county ranked 185th for 2015 to 2016 and 169th from 2011 to 2016.

Mesa County ranked 154th for high-tech GDP concentration and 176th for GDP growth in the high-tech sector from 2012 to 2017.

Brown said she expects Mesa County to continue moving up in the Milken ranking. “In five years, I see us breaking into the top 25.”

Pueblo, the only other small metropolitan area in Colorado included in the Milken Index, edged up one spot to 78th for 2018.

Among large metro areas in Colorado, Fort Collins fell four spots, but still made the top 10 at ninth. Fort Collins ranked among the top 25 large metro areas in five categories.

The Denver, Aurora and Lakewood metropolitan area slipped one spot to 24th, followed by Greeley at 42nd and Boulder at 62nd.

Nationwide, the Bend and Redmond area in Oregon remained the top-ranked small metro area for a third straight year. The area ranked first for both five-year job and wage growth and second for one-year wage growth. Five-year GDP growth in the high-tech sector jumped 118 places to 15th.

St. George, Utah, finished second, followed by Gainsville, Ga.; the Elkhart and Goshen area of Indiana; and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The Provo and Orem area of Utah remained atop the ranking of large metro areas, with top-three rankings for job and wage growth over one- and five-year periods as well as five-year GDP growth in the high-tech sector.

The San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara area of California came in second, followed by the Austin and Round Rock area of Texas; the San Francisco, Redwood City and South San Francisco area of California; and Dallas, Irving and Plano area of Texas.