BizBeat: How well does Jefferson City rank?

JC stagnant on rankings, boost in wages to help

What do Jefferson City; Logan, Utah; Springfield, Ohio; and Muncie, Ind., have in common?

When compared with other small metropolitan areas on the 2012 list of Best-Performing Cities conducted by the Milken Institute, each of these cities remained the same rank on the 2012 list as they were in 2011.

Depending on where you’re ranked, staying the same may not be so bad.

Take Logan, Utah, for example. The city of 127,550 people took the No. 1 spot, beating out 178 other cities for the second year in a row. Muncie, Ind., however, neared the bottom, staying at the 170th spot.

Jefferson City came in at number 63, neither rising nor falling in a year’s time.

“Sixty-third is not bad,” City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said. “Everybody wants to be No. 1, but I’m very proud that a little city like Jefferson City is ranked to begin with.”

The study doesn’t take into account quality-of-life metrics, such as commute times or housing costs.

The institute weighs employment growth most heavily because of its critical importance to community vitality. Also taken into account are wages and salary growth, which measures the quality of jobs created and sustained.

“I think a lot of people who live in Jefferson City tend to undersell ourselves. We’re actually better than most, is what that survey says to me,” Nickolaus noted.

Jefferson City ranked substantially in high-technology growth — number 15 in growth from 2006 to 2011, and number 13 in growth from 2010 to 2011. Such high rankings made up for the lower points in job growth and wage growth.

“People expect tech to be one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy, and it was,” said Ross DeVol, chief research officer of the Milken Institute and one of the report’s authors.

Nickolaus said Jefferson City does have a substantial population of high-tech employees, “more than other areas around the state ... that’s where job growth is.”

Neighboring Columbia moved up 15 spots in 2012 to squeeze into the top 10. So what does Columbia have that Jefferson City is lacking?

“They do better because they tend to have a more diverse population, not just in race, but culturally. As a result, they offer a lot of opportunities for people that at this point, Jefferson City is not able to offer,” Nickolaus noted.

Looking at the numbers from the Institute’s study, Columbia scored better in job growth, wage growth, short-term job growth, and the number of high-tech industries.

Nickolaus said that Jefferson City still has a higher median income than Columbia, and he hopes to see Jefferson City move up in the coming years.

Aside from Jefferson City and Columbia, St. Joseph ranked 29th, and Joplin came in at 44th on the small cities list.

Making the large metropolitan list were: St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield; however, none ranked in the top 100. The No. 1 spot in the large metro list went to San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

2 percent wage increase equals economy boost

Although Jefferson City may be lacking on some charts, what it does have is an overabundance of state employees. The more than 14,250 state employees working in Cole County contribute to keeping restaurants, gas stations and retail establishments open for business.

A 2 percent boost in wages for our biggest employer, set to come Jan. 1, 2014, will in turn boost the county’s economy.

According to a recent article by Missy Bonnot, director of economic development at the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, a 2 percent pay increase for all state employees will rock the economy to the equivalent of adding 300 new jobs to the community. This amount translates into $11 million coming back into the economy.

“Although not all state employees who work in Cole County live in Cole County, commerce is driven by individuals who work in our community. They run errands, grab lunch, and shop before and after work,” Bonnot stated.

Know of any business happenings around town? Let us know at bizbeat@newstribune.com.

Online:

bestcities.milkeninstitute.org

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