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Provo-Orem, Utah Tops Milken Institute’s 2022 Ranking of Best-Performing Cities for Second Year in a Row

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Provo-Orem, Utah Tops Milken Institute’s 2022 Ranking of Best-Performing Cities for Second Year in a Row

Ashville, NC, and San Luis Obispo, CA, fall sharply from 2021 rankings; Logan, Utah, is No. 1 among small US cities.

Los Angeles – March 28, 2022 – Provo-Orem, Utah, for the second consecutive year, has demonstrated the best economic performance among large cities, according to the 2022 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index. Logan, Utah, moved from No. 2 in 2021 into the top spot among small cities in 2022. These top-tier rankings mark the state of Utah’s continued success at creating jobs and raising wages. The Index, published annually since 1999, is the first of its kind to include pandemic-year data from 2020 to evaluate the performance of US cities in the context of the global health crisis.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has foundationally altered the way we live and work, and that has had a direct impact on our cities,” said Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics and California Center. “When comparing urban areas, access to opportunity is an essential consideration, especially in light of the growing inequalities made apparent by the pandemic.”

Having become an established hub for technology startups, Provo-Orem maintained its top ranking with the highest levels of employment growth and wage growth over the last five years.

“Securing Provo’s long-term economic vibrancy is a top priority,” said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi. "Being honored as the nation’s Best-Performing Large City by the Milken Institute two years running reflects what we have known all along – Provo IS the best place to live and do business.”

Job creation, wage growth, and output growth are the core components of the Index, and the 2022 rankings also include housing affordability and broadband access metrics that were introduced the previous year. 

The Index ranks cities into five tiers, allowing stakeholders such as policymakers, business leaders, and residents to compare their economic performance more easily to their peers. 

Key findings from the 2022 Best-Performing Cities Index:

  • Provo-Orem, Utah, maintains No. 1 ranking among large cities. With a relatively low cost of living, low tax rate, and local talent, the area has attracted tech giants including Oracle, Adobe, Vivint Smart Home, Qualtrics, and Amazon, among other West Coast investors. Austin-Round Rock, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona; and Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida, round out the top five, respectively.

  • Asheville, North Carolina, experiences the largest drop in rankings of large cities from 2021 to 2022. For the second year in a row, the metro area ranked near the bottom of the index for short-term job growth, indicating severe employment contraction at the start of the pandemic. San Luis Obispo, California, experienced a similar drop due to low rankings for housing affordability.

  • Logan, Utah, makes a one-place improvement to rank No. 1 among small cities. Home to several high-tech medical manufacturing industries, including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, Logan, Utah, placed within the top ten for nearly all measurements of job and wage growth. Following in the overall rankings for small cities are St. George, Utah at No.2, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho at No.3, Redding, California at No.4 (jumping 59 spots in the rankings), and Idaho Falls, Idaho at No.5. 

  • High-tech jobs continue to move from large coastal cities to affordable inland metro areas. Cities in the Intermountain West that have expanded their tech economies in recent years were able to maintain positive growth in the Index’s 2022 rankings; however, traditional high-tech hubs including San Jose and Durham-Chapel Hill experienced a rebound in this year’s rankings, indicating the resilience of high-tech industries in the face of economic uncertainty. 

  • Despite attention on out-migration, the importance of cities remains. While much was written about an “urban exodus” during the pandemic, the phenomenon was largely overstated. Although cities including New York, New York, and Los Angeles, California did experience declines in population (from factors including fewer births, greater deaths, and less immigration from abroad), cities such as Austin, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, registered notable growth rates. 

“Our report shows how patterns of economic activity are growing and changing across the nation’s cities,” added Charlotte Kesteven, report author and senior policy analyst at the Center for Regional Economics at the Milken Institute. “Comparing their performance provides an essential starting point for policymakers and local leaders to better evaluate their economies and plan for future economic success.” 

How We Evaluate Cities

The Index measures economic vitality in 200 large metropolitan areas and 201 small metropolitan areas using job creation, wage growth, and innovation industry metrics. As in the previous year, the 2022 version of the Index emphasizes jobs, wages, high-tech growth, housing affordability, and household broadband access. 

“Best-Performing Cities 2022: Charting Economic Resilience and Opportunity” is co-authored by Kesteven, Alissa Dubetz, Abraham Song, and Caroline Choi. To view the full report and search the 400 metro areas evaluated, visit https://milkeninstitute.org/report/best-performing-cities-2022 and follow coverage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn using #BestPerformingCities.

2022 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index


LARGE US CITIES – TIER I

  1. Provo–Orem, UT

  2. Austin–Round Rock, TX

  3. Salt Lake City, UT

  4. Phoenix–Mesa–Scottsdale, AZ

  5. Palm Bay–Melbourne–Titusville, FL

  6. Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, WA

  7. San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara, CA

  8. Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers, AR–MO

  9. Colorado Springs, CO

  10. Dallas–Plano–Irving, TX


SMALL US CITIES – TIER I

  1. Logan, UT–ID

  2. St. George, UT

  3. Coeur d’Alene, ID

  4. Redding, CA

  5. Idaho Falls, ID

  6. Walla Walla, WA

  7. Sioux Falls, SD

  8. Gainesville, GA

  9. Champaign–Urbana, IL

  10. (Tied) Bend–Redmond, OR

  11. (Tied) Abilene, TX

Media Contact

Chad Clinton, [email protected]
+ 1 (202) 262-1067

About the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics and California Center

The Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics produces research, programs, and events designed to inform and activate innovative economic and policy solutions to drive job creation and industry expansion.

About the Milken Institute

The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that helps people build meaningful lives in which they can experience health and well-being, pursue effective education and gainful employment, and access the resources required to create ever-expanding opportunities for themselves and their broader communities. For more information, visit https://milkeninstitute.org/.