America’s Fastest-Growing Cities

Austin Texas skyscrapers at sunset from helicopter

by on June 10, 2013

Which cities are on the up-and-up?  The answer might surprise you.  NerdWallet  sifted through the data from over 475 cities to find cities that were growing in three categories—population, employment and income—and ranked them according to growth rates.  We used the following three factors to determine the overall growth score of each city:

  1. Population: Population growth in the working-age population (16+)
  2. Employment: Growth in the percentage of employed residents (16+)
  3. Income: Growth in median income for workers

Check out our cost of living calculator for more information.

America’s Fastest-Growing Cities

1.    New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy has made an inspirational comeback since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.  Rising out of the tragedy, New Orleans has rebuilt itself into a thriving energy, education and tech hub.  Rich with music, food and culture, New Orleans has plenty to offer, and the schools are improving as well—in the past 10 years, the percentage of eighth-grade students passing Louisiana’s LEAP test has more than doubled.   The city’s universities show a commitment to public service and community enrichment, and Tulane University’s GIST Program connects seventh grade girls with female role models and mentors in STEM fields.  Additionally, Dillard University has expanded their campus in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thereby supporting the New Orleans community.

2.    Gainesville, Florida

A growing startup hub (Gainesville is home to music startup Grooveshark), Gainesville has plenty of resources for entrepreneurs.  The Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center provides tools and training for early-stage startups. High schoolers can benefit from this entrepreneurial environment as well by participating in the University of Florida’s outreach and youth program, such as the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability Summer Program.

3.    Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo’s thriving manufacturing, education and healthcare industries contribute to its growing economy.  Businesspeople can take advantage of the city’s Department of Economic Development.  There is a variety of entertainment in Fargo as well.  The city holds plenty of parks, a yearly winter carnival, the largest art museum in the state and the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra.

4.    Fayetteville, North Carolina

Fayetteville’s population has grown by 1/5 over a four-year period.  A three-time winner of the All-America City Award, Fayetteville is known for its commitment to veterans, and its economy is largely based on the defense industry and Fort Bragg, a U.S. Army installation.  Fayetteville State University is committed to economic development, and the school offers an annual youth entrepreneurship conference as well as a green business conference.

5.    Odessa, Texas

Although Odessa has relied on the oil industry in the past, the city is expanding into other energy industries, including wind and clean coal.  This growing city has plenty of entertainment opportunities and historical sites as well, including the Odessa Meteor Crater and the White-Pool House, a historic museum built in 1887.

6.    Mount Vernon, New York

Mount Vernon is quickly growing in the fields of education and healthcare.  The 115 year-old Mount Vernon Hospital contributes to the thriving healthcare industry in the city.  Mount Vernon is an extremely diverse community, with residents from over 98 nationalities.  The city also has a large Brazilian community.

7.    Mountain View, California

Located at the heart of Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise that Mountain View makes the list.  The city is home to many technology startups, including Google, Mozilla and Intuit.  California is excellent for small businesses, and Mountain View has plenty to offer, including sunny weather, Shoreline Park and plenty of restaurants and cafes.

8.    Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Highlands Ranch is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live.  With the city’s recreation centers and plethora of parks, it’s easy to see why this planned community ranks as one of the fastest-growing cities.  The city is great for residents at all levels, offering everything from children’s recreation programs to senior outreach services.  The city even has a Healthy Steps program that incentivizes exercise.

9.    El Paso, Texas

El Paso’s low cost of living and warm weather are obvious reasons why people are flocking to The Sun City.  But in addition, El Paso has great dining, theater venues and museums, so the city offers plenty of entertainment as well.  Education, military and manufacturing are main industries in the area, and the city is home to several Fortune 500 companies.  The University of Texas at El Paso offers professional training and development classes that help the local community as well, providing classes and trainings on financial literacy, self-defense, art and more.

10. Pasadena, California

Home to Caltech, this growing city employs many in the education sector.  Pasadena has a rich arts culture as well—residents can see the Pasadena Symphony and attend plays at the Pasadena Playhouse.  Caltech, located in Pasadena, holds public events as well, including music performances and public speakers.

Rank City Population growth (population 16+, 2007-2011) Growth in employment rate (percent population 16+ in labor force, 2007-2011) Growth in median income (median earnings for workers adjusted for inflation, 2007-2011) Overall growth score
1 New Orleans, Louisiana 45.5% 1.6% 15.6% 82.9
2 Gainesville, Florida 14.2% 6.6% 18.7% 75.8
3 Fargo, North Dakota 14.0% 3.9% 11.3% 67.8
4 Fayetteville, North Carolina 19.6% 3.7% 4.8% 67.5
5 Odessa, Texas 6.9% 5.7% 7.7% 65.3
6 Mount Vernon, New York 4.2% 7.4% 4.4% 65.1
7 Mountain View, California 3.2% 4.7% 11.4% 63.4
8 Highlands Ranch, Colorado 14.1% 1.5% 7.5% 62.2
9 El Paso, Texas 12.7% 2.3% 6.1% 62.1
10 Pasadena, California 3.1% 4.5% 9.0% 61.9
11 Bloomington, Illinois 5.8% 3.3% 8.9% 61.3
12 Miramar, Florida 8.6% 3.6% 0.4% 59.4
13 Rochester, Minnesota 12.0% 1.9% 1.9% 59.1
14 Santa Monica, California 6.0% 3.3% 2.4% 58.4
15 Vacaville, California 1.4% 5.1% 1.2% 58.4
16 Las Cruces, New Mexico 8.0% 0.8% 8.6% 58.2
17 Quincy, Massachusetts 10.0% 2.3% 0.2% 57.9
18 Washington, District of Columbia 7.3% 0.5% 9.7% 57.8
19 Midland, Texas 8.9% 2.1% 0.8% 57.2
20 Shreveport, Louisiana 3.1% 1.9% 7.8% 57.0

Data came from the U.S. Census, data set CP03

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  • Annalisa Ambrose

    Highlands Ranch is not a city. It is a very large subdivbision.

  • Cleo’s Crafts & Creations

    Yea, Las Cruces!!! But why does the word keep getting out – maybe it also is because of our award-winning Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces!!!?!

  • Stephanie G Travis

    Thanks for mentioning Gainesville, It’s an awesome place to live and work. We have several exciting startups here, including a booming biotech sector. GTEC is going through a transition now, and we aren’t sure if it will be a hub/incubator in the future. For more about the startup scene in GNV, check out gainesvilletech dot com and gainnet dot org. For students wanting to connect regarding entrepreneurship, check out tecuf dot org. GNV is holding its second Startup Weekend this Fall – join us!