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Provo-Orem named ‘Best Performing City’ by Milken Institute for third straight year

By Genelle Pugmire - | May 16, 2023

Courtesy Provo City

Provo personnel celebrate the release of a study on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, ranking Provo-Orem as the top performing city in the nation.

As much as many Provo-Orem residents love where they live, it gets just as much appreciation from outside of the valley. On Tuesday, the Milken Institute named Provo-Orem the number one “Best Performing City” in the nation for the third year in a row.

“I was honored to be notified by the Milken Institute that Provo City has been awarded the nation’s ‘Best Performing City’ for an unprecedented third consecutive year,” Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said. “The award is data driven, based on metrics like job and wage growth. But behind our impressive metrics are the amazing people that make it all happen. It is they who should be most proud of this award.”

The index, published annually since 1999, reflects cities’ effectiveness at leveraging their resources to promote economic growth and provide their residents with access to the essential services and infrastructure needed for success.

“Having become an established hub for technology startups, Provo-Orem maintained its top ranking with the highest levels of employment growth and wage growth,” reads the Milken Institute announcement. “Provo also experienced rapid labor market expansion driven partly by the expansion of its high-tech sector.”

During Tuesday’s Municipal Council work session, Economic Development director Keith Morey said Provo has become great at building start-ups and tech companies, but has a hard time keeping them in the city. Maggie Switek, director of regional economics in the Milken Institute’s Research Department, praised the city’s burgeoning tech industry while saying they still need to diversify.

Courtesy Provo City

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi announces the release of a study on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, ranking Provo-Orem as the top performing city in the nation for the third straight year.

The 2023 Milken Index and rankings are mainly based on data from 2021 and early 2022, the first full year of recovery following the onset of COVID-19.

“This year’s report shows that US cities continue to drive the nation’s growth despite the pressures created by COVID-19,” Switek said. “Three years after the onset of the pandemic, cities are still the main centers of the nation’s economic activity. In 2021, the metropolitan areas included in the BPC rankings generated 89% of the U.S. gross domestic product and were home to 86.3% of the country’s population.”

This year’s list of the top-performing cities had several common themes: a vigorous and growing high-tech sector, rebounding leisure and hospitality sectors and above-average broadband access, Milken noted.

Simultaneously, housing affordability was a concern among most top-performing cities. While remarking on the strong performance of top-ranked cities, this year’s BPC report also noted that cities should aim to increase their supply of affordable housing to remain attractive to young generations of workers.

The Provo-Orem councils, community planners and developers are all seeking to find answers to the elusive affordability question.

Courtesy Provo City

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi unveils the city's awards from the Milken Institute and a permanent wall plaque on April 26, 2023.

The other metropolitan areas in the top five include Austin-Round Rock, Texas; Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina; Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee; and Boise City, Idaho. Only Austin and Provo-Orem were in the top five in 2022.

“It is with immense pride and gratitude that we celebrate this extraordinary achievement for our remarkable city as Orem is honored with the prestigious Milken Institute’s Best Performing City Award for an unprecedented third time in a row,” Orem Mayor David Young told the Daily Herald. “While it is extremely gratifying for the city to receive this national recognition, the true credit belongs to our residents, city employees, entrepreneurs, and business leaders who make up our successful community. This accomplishment is a testament to the positive outcomes that flow from a business-friendly environment where creativity, opportunity, and collaboration are fostered and encouraged. Even though we have the historic three-peat award, we’re not taking our foot off the pedal. Our goal is to keep pursuing excellence and continue building a better Orem.”

The Index measures economic vitality in 200 large metropolitan areas and 203 small metropolitan areas by assessing performance of the labor market, tech sector, and access to economic opportunities. The Milken Institute also pointed out the prevalence of higher education institutions in high0performing areas with Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University in Provo and Orem, respectively.

Tom Macdonald, assistant dean of the Woodbury School of Business at UVU and a member of the Orem City Council, said he wasn’t surprised to learn of the ranking based on “the quality of education” in the area.

Macdonald added that there are three aspects of the Provo-Orem area the help bring the Milken notoriety — the workforce, the willingness to care for each other and the level of education.

Switek noted that, while there has been a small improvement in affordable housing, affordable housing affects all other areas listed in the Milken criteria.

“Provo-Orem must continue to build affordable housing to maintain growth in other areas such as jobs,” Switek said.

Data shows that Provo-Orem needs to continue to grow the education and health industry, while also showing strong growth in transportation and warehousing, Switek added.


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