Gainesville ranks No. 3 in Milken Institute's Small Cities Index

The Milken Institute’s “Best Performing Cities Index” for 2017 showed Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell climb seven spots to a 14th place ranking among 200 U.S. large cities. Gainesville also rose seven spots to a heady third place ranking among 163 small cities.

The Santa Monica, Calif., based non-profit conducts the annual rankings based on the impact of policymaking on jobs, wages, technology development among other measures. It has published its index annually since 1999. The 2017 ranking were released in  January.

The index highlighted Atlanta’s job growth spread across many industries. According to the index, nearly 45,000 jobs were added in 2016 by a diverse array of industries including dining and drinking industries, knowledge-based industries, health-related industries, construction-related industries, and film- and television-related industries.

“Though insurance, finance and real estate industries contributed significantly to Atlanta’s total GDP growth in 2016, none contributed more than information technology,” the index says. “The growth adds fuel to the buzz over the metro’s coming pitch for Amazon’s second headquarters.”

Citing Moody’s Analytics’ assessment of current bidders for the headquarters Atlanta ranked second behind behind Austin, Tex. “Amazon has already been expanding its distribution centers and even its high-tech operations in Atlanta,” the index says.

The index also points to Tech Mahindra Ltd., part of the Mahindra Group, which specializes in information technology consulting, announced an expansion that is to bring the firm’s employment from 100 to more than 600 people in its suburban Atlanta location.

“Increases in employment and wages are putting more people in the housing market, benefiting both the real estate- and construction- related industries,” it says.

Atlanta scored between Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia in North and South Carolina, which ranked 13th, and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla., at 15th.

Meanwhile, Gainesville climbed to third place on the index for small cities and even ranked first in one-year high-tech GDP growth, which the index explains due to the lack of a highly concentrated high-tech sector.

Gainesville’s two key industries, according to the index, are food manufacturing and health care. Its a major supplier of poultry to international markets and benefited from the competition in China and the European Union which experienced avian flue. The poultry industry in Gainesville employs 8,320 people.

The high-tech spurt was due to the acquisition by Recro Pharma, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company, of Alkermes plc’s manufacturing facility in the Gainesville metro area. The acquisition helped boost the high-tech GDP growth rate by $50 million and a possibility of $120 million.

The index also cited Gainesville’s wage growth rate, ranking second in the category which it called a continuing source of strength, improving 14 spots from the previous ranking.

The expansion of Kubota Manufacturing of America with the opening of a new $100 million plant and the city’s health care industry are cited as having major impacts on the city’s economy. The Northeast Georgia Health System is its largest employer with a staff of 7,100.

The index also sees positive prospects for the city’s economy due to the growth of Atlanta’s movie industry with an ABC affiliate being purchase as part of an $85 million deal to acquire regional stations by Gray Television.

Gainesville’s No. 3 ranking was between St. George, Utah, at No. 2, and San Rafael, Ca., at No. 4.