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Wilmington Beats Charlotte, Charleston In Best-performing Cities Ranking

By Staff Reports, posted Mar 28, 2022

A prominent think tank that annually ranks economic growth in American cities has placed Wilmington in the 21st spot. Wilmington’s new ranking puts the growing city ahead of several urban hubs officials often compare it to when measuring performance indicators.

The Milken Institute published its 2022 best-performing cities analysis Monday, which charts economic growth across the nation. 

The report identifies key metropolitan areas where economic activity is occurring, placing an emphasis on jobs, wages and high-tech growth, according to its index. 

Overall, the researchers observed the continued transition of high-tech jobs moving away from the nation’s biggest coastal cities and toward smaller inland cities that are comparatively more affordable. 

Metropolitans are ranked as either large or small cities within the Milken analysis. Considered a large city in the report, Wilmington’s ranking hopped 16 slots from its 2021 position when it was ranked 37th. 

At 21st, Wilmington is now ahead of Charlotte–Concord–Gastonia (31st), Hickory–Lenoir–Morganton (91st), Winston-Salem (96th), Greensboro–High Point (138th), Asheville (165th) and Fayetteville (174th).

Compared to other comparable cities in South Carolina, the Port City also out-ranked Charleston (54th), Myrtle Beach (101st), and Greenville–Anderson–Mauldin (88th). Wilmington also bested Savannah, G.A. (78th).

Among large cities in North Carolina, only Durham–Chapel Hill (11th) and Raleigh (16th) ranked higher than Wilmington in the report. The report's highest-ranking N.C.-based metro, Durham–Chapel Hill had the second-highest one-year wage growth out of large metros evaluated, helping the region jump 31 slots in this year’s ranking. 

Asheville had the biggest ranking drop among large cities after landing at the bottom of the index for short-term job growth. The city's numbers indicate “particularly severe employment contraction during the early days of the pandemic,” according to the report. 

Charlotte also saw a ranking slump, down five spots from the previous report. 

“While many of the nation’s traditional high-tech hubs still provide economic opportunities, they are no longer the only centers that create high-paying jobs, marking a shift toward spreading that type of economic success across more of the country,” the report concludes.

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