Naples has kept its title as a “best-performing city.”
The Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island metro area — or Collier County — ranks 18th this year on The Milken Institute’s index of “Best-Performing Cities” in the nation.
The index is an assessment of how areas are doing in creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. To come up with the rankings, researchers with Milken, a nonprofit think tank, analyzed data in more than 400 metro areas, including growth in jobs, wages and technology output.
“It’s considered a venerable source of information. Companies like to see that; companies that are searching for places to go, they like that. It adds credibility to what we are doing,” Kentner said.
Rankings like this can open many doors, he said, getting the attention of site consultants and selectors for businesses wanting to expand or relocate.
In an email, Minoli Ratnatunga, the Milken Institute’s director of regional economics research and a co-author of the report, said even metros that are booming can drop in rank if other areas are “surging even farther forward.”
“A one-place drop is not a significant change,” she said.
The Naples area has landed in the Top 20 rankings for three years in a row.
The metro ranked fourth in the nation for its job growth and 15th for its high-tech gross domestic product, or output, for the years 2011-16. The area came in 16th for its five-year wage growth (for 2010-15).
“Job growth in the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island region has been very impressive over the one- and five-year periods we examined for our index,” Ratnatunga said. “The region added jobs at a faster rate than all but two large metros we looked at in 2016.”
The report notes the metro area has strong tourism and retail sectors — and nice weather and scenic views that help drive population growth. However, it warns that tourism and retail are “vulnerable to business cycles and natural disasters.”
According to the report, Walmart is the second-largest employer in the metro, with more than 1,700 workers in the area. Thanks to a growing population of retirees, the health care industry also remains strong, with a trio of companies — Arthrex, HCR ManorCare and the NCH Healthcare System — employing more than 5,500 people locally.
The housing sector continues to do well, too. The report points out population growth has driven the development of multifamily projects, helping to create more construction jobs. However, it notes the growing concerns about housing affordability in the region. Rental rates are on the rise, and the median sales price for existing single-family homes, or resales, increased 83.5 percent from 2011-16.
“Depending on how the region’s core industries fare in the next year or so, the Naples metro could improve its ranking slightly,” Ratnatunga said. “However, concerns over housing affordability and cost of living may slow the population growth that has been a key asset for the region.”
The Provo-Orem metro area in Utah took the top spot by a wide margin in this year’s rankings. Its performance was described as “stellar” across the nine indicators used for the study. High-tech industries have been a key driver that placed it first in one-year and five-year job growth rates in the nation.
Florida metros made a good showing in this year’s report, claiming six of the Top 25 spots. According to the report, those economies “hit their stride a little later than other regions of the country.”
“While it is encouraging to see the ascent of a number of Florida metros on our index, it is important to note that in part, this reflects the state’s slower recovery than in other parts of the country,” Ratnatunga said.
In the state the highest-ranked metro was North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, at No. 6. It was followed closely by Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, weighing in at No. 7.
While the metro that includes Fort Myers has also experienced strong job growth, it didn’t perform as well on metrics as other areas did for its short-term job increases (from August 2016 to August 2017). The area dropped from No. 15 last year to 30 this year.
“The Fort Myers region also has a smaller high-tech sector that has only begun to grow in more recent years,” Ratnatunga said.