This morning, economic think tank the Milken Institute put out its annual list of “best-performing cities.” It’s a list that’s typically dominated by established tech hubs, as well as the most talked-about up-and-comers. But there was one surprise on this year’s list: Reno, Nevada jumped to number 11, up 26 spots from last year.
Among the largest 50 metro areas on the list, Reno experienced the highest job growth, as tech companies like Tesla, Google, and Apple are increasingly choosing the city for new manufacturing facilities or datacenters. As these companies look to add more datacenters in the U.S., Reno’s trajectory will be important in determining whether cities can successfully use these facilities as a springboard for more high-paying tech jobs.
“Best-performing” on the list was the Provo, Utah metro area. Provo has seen significant job growth, thanks to homegrown tech companies like Podium and Qualtrics, which was recently acquired for $8 billion. The city was followed by San Jose, Austin, and San Francisco.
The Milken Institute uses nine criteria to rank cities, with a significant emphasis placed on what kind of tech growth they’re seeing, given that the tech industry is driving much of the nation’s economic growth. The Milken Institute also ranks cities based on what kind of job and wage growth they’ve seen over a five-year and one-year period, as a way to point to cities that are seeing more long-term or more short-term economic growth.
Reno scored first in job growth over the one-year period (2016-2017) and ninth in the five-year period (2012-2017). While both scores are good news, it means Reno’s most positive economic gains have been made in the short term.
Most of this growth came in the manufacturing and construction industries — but these jobs have been created because more tech companies are setting up facilities in Reno. Tesla’s Gigafactory, for example, now employs about 7,000 people in the region. In recent years, Apple and Google have chosen Reno for new datacenters, while Switch, another datacenter company, is building what it claims to be the largest datacenter in the world in Reno.
In the past few years, Reno has also been trying to recruit tech startups to move from the Bay Area. Allison Clift-Jennings, the CEO of Reno blockchain startup Filament, told VentureBeat last year that being in Reno has helped her company keep costs down while still staying close to her investors in the Bay Area. Companies that have recently moved from the Bay Area to Reno include software company rfXCEl.
The Milken Institute’s Minoli Ratnatunga told VentureBeat in an email that “we expect to see Reno continue to experience strong job growth in the near term, thanks to business investment in the area, but for growth to slow once the new investments are at scale.” Reno is also experiencing a significant housing shortage that could hamper tech growth in the area.
Ratnatung added that Reno needs to diversify its number of high-skill, high-tech industries. The Milken Institute scores cities based on how many high-tech industries — from a list of 19 — have a higher concentration of jobs in the area, compared to the national average. Reno’s number of highly concentrated high-tech industries has consistently remained at three over the past several years.
Correction, January 25: This post incorrectly stated that Filament relocated to Reno from the Bay Area. Its headquarters have always been in Reno.