City ranked 6th in nation

Williamsport has gained the distinction of placing among the top 10 Best Performing Small Cities in the United States, according to a study conducted by the Milken Institute, a non-profit think tank.

Overall, the Williamsport Metropolitan Statistical Area showed improvement from an earlier report, ranking sixth overall and first in the state for smaller cities.

Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Vince Matteo said the news is welcome for the area.

“The ranking is very rewarding to many people who work hard to move the city and Lycoming County forward,” he said. “The chamber is pleased that the city and county continue to grow, and while our natural gas industry is driving this sterling performance, our legacy companies are also contributing to this unprecedented economic success story.”

Columbia, Mo., earned the top ranking for similar-sized MSA’s, followed by Columbus, Ind.; Fargo, N.D.; Bismarck, N.D., and Midland, Texas.

In its summation of Williamsport, the report’s authors concluded: “Williamsport skyrocketed 13 spots to sixth overall, with strong five-year job growth and Top 10 rankings in one- and five-year wage growth. The metro’s high-tech GDP growth has lagged that of its peers, and the low educational attainment of the local workforce may inhibit future growth. Williamsport has seen significant job growth in Marcellus Shale-related industries.”

The State College MSA was ranked 28.

Other MSAs

Other Pennsylvania MSAs and their rankings were: Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, 52; Altoona, 86; Johnstown, 99; Harrisburg-Carlisle, 130, and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, 173.

Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas, reclaimed the top spot as the Best-Performing Large City, according to the report.

The authors noted Austin’s highly diversified technology base.

The components used to measure cities were five-year wage and salary growth (2006-11), single-year wage and salary growth (2010-11), short-term job growth (2012-13), five-year high tech GDP growth (2007-12), single year high tech GDG growth (2011-12), high tech GDP concentration (2012), and number of high tech industries (2012).

Technology and energy, the report stated, were the main forces behind the top performers in the report. Growth in those sectors propelled several metros into the top ranks.

The authors also acknowledged the economic clout of natural gas drilling in the United States.

“Even five years ago, few would have believed the extent of the shale oil and gas revolution taking place in the United States,” the report stated. “Technological advancements such as horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing have altered the energy landscape of North America and potentially the world. The indirect effects of this boom helped place Fargo, N.D.-Mont., and Bismarck, N.D., among the Top 5 small cities.”

The report is solely an outcomes-based index and does not incorporate input measures such as business costs, cost-of-living components, and quality-of-life conditions such as commute times or crime rates.