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Gainesville’s economic vitality put it No. 8 in country on this Milken Institute list
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Gainesville is photographed from a plane window on Thursday, June 27, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Gainesville has been named the No. 8 top-performing small metropolitan statistical area in the country by a group that annually measures economic vitality among large and small U.S. cities.

It is also the only small metro area from Georgia on the Milken Institute’s top 10 list.

“I think it shows we have a well-rounded and diverse economy — health care, manufacturing, retail, tourism, housing, arts, education, government, plus strong leadership,” said Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Top-performing cities “have cohesive strategies that allow them to weather economic storms and leverage their assets for sustained growth,” said Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics, in a press release.

2020 Top-10 best-performing small U.S. cities
  1. Bend-Redmond, Ore.

  2. Grants Pass, Ore.

  3. Logan, Utah-Idaho

  4. St. George, Utah

  5. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

  6. The Villages, Fla.

  7. Idaho Falls, Idaho

  8. Gainesville

  9. Sebastian-Vero Beach, Fla.

  10. Bellingham, Wash.

Source: Milken Institute

Milken is a California-based nonprofit think tank that has published an index since 1999, measuring economic vitality in 200 large metropolitan areas and 201 small cities in such areas as job creation, wage growth and innovation industry metrics.

“The rankings help policymakers, investors, and businesses understand where and how regional economies are prospering,” the institute says.

Its 2020 report says that Gainesville’s proximity to Atlanta “helps fuel population and economic growth” and that “low living and business costs help attract new businesses to the region.”

On the downside, “the major industries in the metro are more susceptible to business cycles,” the report says.

Gainesville, which was the nation’s No. 3 best performer in 2019, is a “popular destination for company relocation,” benefiting local labor markets.

The report cites Fox Factory announcing in 2018 it was moving its headquarters to Gainesville from California. The move is expected to create about 800 jobs. It also noted that Kubota Manufacturing of America Corp. has plans to create an $85 million, 300-acre engineering and design center off Ga. 365 in northeast Hall.

The report “is definitely based on job growth,” said Tim Evans, vice president for economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Hall has grown from 92,000 jobs “just a few years ago to 105,000, and that stands out nationally,” he said.

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