Sunbelt metros dominate a new ranking of private-sector job creation since the start of 2004, occupying nine of the first 10 slots and 12 of the top 20.
The ranking is heavily Southwest flavored with five Texas metros and Oklahoma City in the first dozen spots. (Lest the Southeast feel left out, Raleigh, Knoxville and Nashville all placed high on the list.)
Now, Texas tends to dwarf job creation talk overall these days. During a three-year stretch from December 2008 to December 2011 the state added nearly 75,000 jobs, the only state among the top 20 in population to have a net job gain in that period. And the state’s large metros tend to dwarf the job talk in Texas. In fact Austin, San Antonio (2 and 3, respectively), El Paso, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are all hovering high in the rankings.
Much has been made of late of the prowess smaller communities are demonstrating in creating new jobs and in attracting new residents. A strong case on both points is being made in the McAllen-Edinburg MSA. Though it is one the smaller Texas metros and just the the 68th-largest largest metro in the nation, the community of just under 800,000 is racking up some impressive accolades
It may not rank in size next to, say, the DFW Metroplex, but McAllen-Edinburg posted the best private-sector job creation record from the start of 2004 through April 2012. In that 100-month period, the MSA added jobs in 84 months. More impressive is that the metro grew its job base by more than 2 percent in 74 of those months compared to the same month the year prior.
So what’s McAllen recipe?
It is a region that embraces its location on the Mexico border, promoting the “new Texas, bilingual, bicultural and pro business.” It wants to capitalize on its position as a gateway to Latin American markets. It has built a vibrant retail sector – the La Plaza Mall is the highest grossing mall per square foot in the nation – in part because of cross-border shoppers. It actively markets Mexico as a manufacturing locale – and points out the advantages of proximity U.S. markets and management and engineering support.
McAllen also has developed a diverse economy, with major industry clusters in health care, communications, education, manufacturing and hospitality-leisure. The job creation is paying dividends. Fiscal Times in early 2012 proclaimed McAllen-Edinburg the fastest-growing U.S. metro and the Wall Street Journal said earlier this year it had the best housing market in the country.
Job growth is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Communities like McAllen are showing that big things can come in smaller packages. What’s your view? What are the advantage and challenges smaller metros face in creating jobs and attracting investment? How does it compare and contrast to large metros? Share your thoughts.