Mesa County moves higher in ranking of small metro areas

Mesa County climbed another 24 spots in the latest comparison of how small metropolitan areas fare for job and wage growth as well as high-tech output.

Mesa County ranked 57th in the Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index for 2021, up from 81st in 2020.

The Milken Institute, a California think tank, ranks 200 large metropolitan areas and 201 small metro areas in the annual index. The index takes into account job and wage growth as well as technology output. In response to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest rankings also take into account housing costs and internet access.

Mesa County has ranked as high as third among small metro areas during what was at the time a natural gas development boom in Western Colorado, but fared less well in the aftermath of downturns in the energy sector and overall economy. Since falling to 187th, however, Mesa County since has jumped 130 spots.

For the 2021 index, Mesa County ranked 12th among small metro areas for job growth over the past 12 months, 57th for job growth in 2018 and 2019 and 80th for job growth from 2014 to 2019.

Mesa County ranked 37th among small metro areas for wage growth in 2018 and 2019 and 90th for wage growth from 2014 to 2019.

The county ranked 59th for growth in gross domestic product from the high-tech sector in 2018 and 2019 and 160th for high-tech GDP growth from 2014 to 2019.

Mesa County fared better in ranking 32nd for broadband internet access in 2019.

The county came in 156th for housing affordability in 2019 and 158th from 2014 to 2018.

Pueblo, the only other small metro area in Colorado, climbed 47 spots to 52nd in the 2021 ranking.

Among large metro areas, five Colorado cities ranked in the top 50. The Denver, Aurora and Lakewood area moved up seven spots to 11th. Fort Collins rose nine spots to 12th. Colorado Springs advanced 19 places to 17th. Greeley dropped 23 spots to 43rd. Boulder fell 16 places to 44th.

Nationwide, Idaho Falls, Idaho, rose six spots to the top ranking among small metro areas. Logan, Utah, moved up a place to second. The Villages in Florida rose two spots to third, while St. George, Utah, was fourth.

The Provo and Orem area of Utah moved up one spot to rank first among large metro areas. The Palm Springs, Melbourne and Titusville area of Florida ranked second. The Austin, Round Rock and Georgetown area of Texas remained third. Sale Lake City came in fourth.