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Boulder Is Colorado's 'Best Performing City'... Greeley Is Right Behind It

Boulder: Luis Toro - Greeley: Loco Steve
Flickr - Creative Commons
On the left, Boulder, Colo. the 9th best performing city in the Milken Institute's 'Best Performing Cities' index 2013. To the right, Greeley, Colo., ranked just behind Boulder.

Thanks to the University of Colorado and a strong high-tech sector, Boulder is best in the state. A bit more unexpected, perhaps, is that Greeley is right on Boulder’s heels.

The 2013 “Best Performing Cities” report from the Milken Institute ranks on performance metrics like jobs, wages, and industry performance – not quality of life.

When you dig a little deeper, it’s clear that manufacturing, technology, aerospace, and telecommunications are among the driving factors for the four Colorado cities in the top 25. Boulder topped the state at number 9, while its eastern plains counterpart ranked 10.

Another force is energy, especially the natural gas boom seen across the Niobrara. As the Milken Institute writes in their Executive Summary:

“World-class energy clusters such as Houston-Sugarland-Baytown, TX, and the more remote Greeley, CO,are also witnessing significant ripple effects across their economies from this oil and gas exploration renaissance.”

Weld County, where Greeley is located, was nearing 80 percent of the state’s oil and gas production at the start of 2013. The city’s astonishing 32-place jump from last year’s list was fueled by energy – both fossil and renewable.

Credit Milken Institute

Boulder is often the darling of top-ten lists everywhere, and an iconic representation of Colorado, so its presence on this list isn’t all that surprising.

Greeley, not so much. It’s often the butt of Colorado jokes (like the infamous ‘smell’). It isn’t often found on lists like this, compared to other cities like Fort Collins and Denver.

Let's look behind the numbers...

With the nation’s second-highest concentration of technology output, Boulder has seen broad-based job growth over the last several years, fueled by high-tech startup density, the University of Colorado, and its aerospace industry. One downside is the high cost of living – a boon for the surrounding bedroom communities.

Credit Milken Institute

Greeley has its own high-flying industries as well. Noble energy has invested billions of dollars in Weld County. And Vestas Wind Systems also has a facility nearby that is creating jobs. Strong growth in jobs and wages is leading to steady population increases. Working against the city has been a lack of significant educational attainment.

Then there's the other cities that Greeley surpassed.

An energy city in its own right (and our favorite nerdy city), Denver’s strong presence in aerospace, telecommunications and manufacturing helped it gain 15 spots over 2012, placing it right at number 15.

The Fort Collins-Loveland area dropped eight places from 2012 to land at 20th on the list. The report touts the region’s strong job growth, low unemployment, and the presence of Colorado State University.

All this adds up to good news for a state that’s had some tough moments recently, like wildfires and floods.

Credit Milken Institute

H/T to Atlantic Cities.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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