Two East Valley municipalities each landed a spot on a list of 20 cities that continue to grow even in a slow economy.
The list of Thriving Cities, compiled by the website the Daily Beast, rates the 100 largest municipalities on several economic factors encompassing population growth, an improved housing market, the residents’ level of education and bond rating. The Daily Beast weighted each category — employment and earnings received the highest weight at 30 percent — and all the figures are compiled from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Moody’s Credit Services and other agencies.
A total of three Arizona municipalities landed on the top 20 list, with the Town of Gilbert leading the way at No. 8. The list cites Gilbert for having low unemployment, a high portion — 93 percent —of its population living above the poverty line and a large number of residents with advanced degrees like master’s or doctorate. Mayor John Lewis said the percentage of residents with advanced degrees the Daily Beast lists, 11 percent, might be lower than the actual percent.
“It was a nice recognition; I think there are a lot of factors that play into it,” said town manager Patrick Banger.
Some of the factors he mentioned include the high-wage industries that have come to the city, employers like Orbital Sciences Corporation, Lockheed Martin and the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center that bump up the degree capacity, and a collection of small businesses and schools that attract people to Gilbert. The town’s education system should also see a boost when St. Xavier University moves into the downtown area and opens in 2015.
While the other economic and development factors are highlighted on other listings, Lewis said the intelligence of the town’s residents isn’t an area he had taken into account prior to the Daily Beast’s list.
“I was interested in the intellectual capital, because that’s not something I paid attention to,” he said.
Finishing four spots below Gilbert at No. 12 is Chandler, which earned high marks for having an Aaa credit rating — the highest dispensed by Moody’s — an unemployment rate almost 2 percent lower than the state average of 7.8 percent and for having 15 percent of its population possess an advanced degree.
Economic development Director Christine Mackay attributed the Moody’s rating to a fiscal philosophy that spans multiple decades and to town leadership that has traditionally fallen back on fiscally conservative principals.
“We’ve always had a plan where we wanted to be in build out,” she said.
Like Gilbert, Chandler also features a slew of business emphasizing STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — fields, for example OnTrac, Intel and an Orbital Sciences site that focuses on rocketry.
Joining Gilbert and Chandler on the list is Scottsdale, which came in 15th place. California has four of the top five cities on the list, with Irvine taking the No. 1 spot. Visit http://evtnow.com/5ru for the Daily Beast’s complete list of thriving cities.
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