Mesa County soars in ranking of top-performing areas

Mesa County climbed another 50 spots in the latest comparison of how small metropolitan areas fare for growth in jobs, wages and high-tech output.

Mesa County ranked 81st in the Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index for 2020, up from 131st in the 2018 ranking. The gain was the 13th largest among all metro areas evaluated in the index.

Mesa County ranked highest in the latest index for job and wage growth from 2017 to 2018, but lower for growth in gross domestic product in the high-tech sector. The index ranked the Grand Junction metropolitan statistical area, which is the same as Mesa County.

The Milken Institute ranked 200 large metropolitan areas and 201 small metro areas in the index, taking into account job and wage growth and output of high-tech companies. The California think tank promotes policies that create job, improves access to capital and enhance health.

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, Mesa County has jumped a total of 106 spots in the past two rankings.

For the 2020 index, Mesa County ranked highest among small metro areas at 17th for wage growth from 2016 to 2017 and 28th for job growth from 2017 to 2018. Mesa County ranked 29th for job growth over the past 12 months, but 73rd for job growth from 2013 to 2018.

Mesa County ranked 156th for GDP growth in the high-tech sector from 2017 to 2018 and 178th for high-tech output from 2013 to 2018.

Pueblo, the only other small metro area in Colorado included in the Milken index, fell 21 places to 99th.

Among large metropolitan areas, three Colorado areas ranked among the top 25. The Denver, Aurora and Lakewood metro area climbed six spots to 18th. Greeley jumped 22 spots to 20th overall with top 10-rankings for wage and job growth. Fort Collins dropped 12 spots to 21st overall. Boulder jumped 34 spots to 28th. Colorado Springs moved up 22 places to 36th.

Nationwide, the Bend and Redmond areas of Oregon remained the top-ranked small metro area. Grants Pass, Oregon, finished second. Logan and St. George in Utah were third and fourth, respectively.

The San Francisco, Redwood City and South San Francisco area moved up three spots to rank as the top large metro area. The Provo and Orem area of Utah slipped a spot to second. The Austin and Round Rock area of Texas remained third.