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Top 10 Cities on the Rise

Aug. 19, 2013
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Top 10 Cities on the Rise
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As the economy picks up, many people are looking around for booming cities with growing employment and thriving industry. What are the top growing cities in the U.S.? We crunched the numbers to find the top cities on the rise.

We used the following three factors to determine the growth of the city:

1)    Growth in working-age population: We looked at the growth in percentage of the city’s working-age population (16 years old and over).

2)    Growth in income: We looked at the growth in median income for workers.

3)    Growth in airport passenger traffic: We approximated how popular the city is by tracking passenger movement in the city’s airports. This gauges how many travelers, especially business travelers, are coming to the city to find industry and business opportunities.

For more city information, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tool.

What makes these cities great?  Let us know in the comments below!

Top 10 Cities on the Rise

1. Gainesville, FL

Gainesville showed remarkable growth over the past five years. Its employment rate has risen 6.6 percent while the median income has grown a tremendous 18.7 percent. Travelers are clearly flocking to Gainesville – Gainesville Regional Airport has seen a 7.4 percent rise in passenger traffic. The University of Florida is a top employer in the area, and the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation holds a rigorous summer leadership program for high school students.

2. Fargo, ND

Fargo is another booming city that has seen growth over the past five years. Its employment rate has risen 3.9 percent while its median income has grown 11.3 percent. Its airport, Hector International, is mirroring Fargo’s rise, with 6.8 percent passenger growth. Fargo’s economy is diverse, with major employers in healthcare, education, agriculture and technology.  The North Dakota State University Institute for Business and Industry Development provides one-on-one consulting to North Dakota entrepreneurs and communities.

 3. Brownsville, TX

Brownsville, located at the southernmost tip of Texas, is one of the fastest-growing areas in the U.S., with 1.3 percent growth in employment and 17.8 percent growth in median income. Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport has seen a corresponding 0.2 percent growth in passenger traffic. The Port of Brownsville makes the city a shipping hub with easy access to Mexico, and the University of Texas at Brownsville provides employment opportunities while contributing to the growing community with green outreach programs.

 4. Bloomington, IL 

Bloomington, in central Illinois, is seeing plenty of economic growth, with a rising employment rate of 3.3 percent as well as a rise of 8.9 percent in median income. Additionally, Bloomington has a reasonable cost of living, especially for local college students, and it is one of the best areas for renters. State Farm Insurance is headquartered in Bloomington and is the largest employer in the city. Illinois State University encourages students to be involved in the city with its American Democracy Project.

 5. Fayetteville, NC

Fayetteville is the largest metropolitan in southeastern North Carolina, largely due to the presence of Fort Bragg and Pope Army Airfield. While Fayetteville Regional Airport traffic dropped 1.6 percent, Fayetteville saw a 3.7 percent rise in employment and a 4.8 percent rise in the median income. Fayetteville State University helps military veterans ease back into civilian life with extensive military student resources.

 6. Alexandria, VA

Nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National saw a 4.52 percent growth in passenger traffic. Alexandria also saw a 5.7 percent growth in its employment rate from 2007 to 2012, while the median income dropped 3.9 percent. Alexandria’s largest employers include the U.S. Department of Defense and the Institute of Defense Analyses. With its close ties to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, Alexandria is definitely on the rise.

 7. Shreveport, LA

Shreveport is the third-largest city in Louisiana and sits along the Red River in northwest Louisiana. The city has seen 1.9 percent growth in employment as well as 7.8 percent growth in income. Shreveport Regional Airport saw a corresponding 4.3 percent in growth of passenger traffic. Shreveport has a thriving healthcare industry, with one of Louisiana State University’s Health Science Center and the Christus Schumpert Medical Center located there.

 8. El Paso, TX

El Paso is located on the Rio Grande in western Texas, right along the Mexican border. It is the sixth-largest city in Texas and is catching up to powerhouse cities like Austin and Houston. El Paso has seen a 2.3 percent increase in the employment rate and 6.1 percent growth in median income. El Paso has growing military, oil and gas and healthcare industries. The University of Texas El Paso promotes its students to innovate with the Center for Research Entrepreneurship and Innovative Enterprise.

 9. Huntsville, AL

Huntsville is located in northern Alabama, north of the Tennessee River. Huntsville is a hub of aerospace and military technology companies and is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Cummings Research Park and Redstone Arsenal, a U.S. Army Post. Huntsville saw a 4.7 percent rise in employment, while weathering a slight drop of 2.5 percent in median income. The University of Alabama in Huntsville encourages students with an Entrepreneurship Club.

 10. Mobile, AL

Another Alabama city rounds out our top ten. Mobile is located near the mouth of the Mobile River in southwest Alabama. While Mobile had a slight drop of 0.2 percent in the employment rate, it has seen a tremendous 14.2 percent growth in median income since 2007. The Port of Mobile is the 12th largest port in the U.S., providing easy access to the Gulf of Mexico. The University of South Alabama’s Melton Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship contributes research and insight to help the surrounding community.

Rank City Growth in Population Growth in Median Income Airport Passenger Growth Overall Rating
1 Gainesville, FL 6.6% 18.7% 7.4% 53.9
2 Fargo, ND 3.9% 11.3% 6.8% 48.9
3 Brownsville, TX 1.3% 17.8% 0.2% 48.2
4 Bloomington, IL 3.3% 8.9% -15.7% 47.6
5 Fayetteville, NC 3.7% 4.8% -1.6% 46.8
6 Alexandria, VA 5.7% -3.9% 4.52% 46.3
7 Shreveport, LA 1.9% 7.8% 4.3% 45.9
8 El Paso, TX 2.3% 6.1% -1.2% 45.8
9 Huntsville, AL 4.7% -2.5% -5.8% 45.7
10 Mobile, AL -0.2% 14.2% -3.8% 45.6
11 Miami, FL 3.6% -3.2% 3.5% 44.4
12 Erie, PA 3.5% -3.1% -5.9% 44.3
13 Santa Barbara, CA 4.9% -8.0% 0.9% 44.2
14 Spokane, WA 1.1% 4.8% -2.1% 44.2
15 Baton Rouge, LA 2.1% 1.2% 2.44% 44.1
16 Rochester, MN 1.9% 1.9% -4.5% 44.1
17 Bellingham, WA -3.8% 21.1% 11.43% 44.0
18 Jacksonville, NC 2.6% -0.8% 2.4% 44.0
19 Midland, TX 2.1% 0.8% 4.8% 44.0
20 Buffalo, NY 1.3% 3.5% 0.23% 44.0


We used the following factors to determine which cities were on the rise:

1)    Growth in population 16+ from 2007 to 2012 from the U.S. Census

2)    Growth in median income from 2007 to 2012 from the U.S. Census

3)    Growth in airport passenger traffic from 2007 to 2012 from the Bureau of Transportation

233 cities were included in this analysis.

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