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Robert Trigaux

Lessons from 20 fastest growing U.S. cities, none of them in Florida



keepaustinweirdsticker.jpgWake up and good morning. Somehow a city whose offbeat slogan Keep Austin Weird seems to work again has landed at the No. 1 spot on the Forbes list of the 20 fastest growing cities (by population and economy) in America. Anybody tracking metro growth should not be surprised by Austin's powerhouse status. This is the third year in a row Austin's come out on top.

So what are the lessons for places like Tampa Bay, no historic slouch to fast growth but currently stalled waaaay back in the fast growth list? First and foremost, Austin is in Texas, which is enjoying boom times when compared to any state in the country. Second, Austin is the state capital, which raises its public profile and no doubt insures an extra flow of funds to it just as Washington, D.C., always seems flush with publicly funded services. Third, Austin has some powerful corporate headquarters, including Whole Foods and nearby Dell (the PC maker now trying to remake itself by going private). Fourth, Austin has a strong identity that combines a major music reputation with an entrepreneurial base that manages to produce genuinely successful start-ups. Austin enjoys a 4.9 percent unemployment rate. And Austin has a major university, which insures tons of young people along with all that good research and government grants. Austin even boasts SXSW. If you don't know what that is, you better click here and here to get in the loop.

Tampa Bay has some of these pieces but they need to gel. And so far, Tampa Bay's brand seems to be closer to Keep Things Bland, though business leaders are trying to find something with more edge to say about this metro area. Still, people are starting to head to Tampa Bay again, as this separate Forbes list suggests.

The Forbes list of America's 20 fastest growing cities names is revealing in several ways. There are no Florida cities listed. Only two cities in the entire Southeast, both in North Carolina (Raleigh and Charlotte) made the Top 20. The states with Top 20 cities are Texas (with four), California (with four -- a reminder that higher taxes need not deter growth if cities offer other compelling reasons to come), Utah (3) and one city apiece in Washington, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma and, of course, Washington, D.C. View the entire list here.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

[Last modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 7:53am]


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