N.H. metros move up on economic performance list

A new report shows metropolitan areas in New Hampshire have grown relatively stronger in their ability to withstand the worst of the recession.

The 2009 Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners Best-Performing Cities Index ranks the Manchester-Nashua metro area 76th and Rockingham County-Stafford County 91st out of the country’s 200 largest metropolitan areas for their ability to create and sustain jobs, solid mortgage performance and moderate gas prices.

While the rankings in and of themselves don’t appear to be especially remarkable, their climb from last year’s figures is impressive.

The Manchester-Nashua region rose 31 spots, up from 107th place in 2008. And Rockingham County-Strafford County climbed 22 places from 113th in 2008.

The Milken Index measures growth in jobs, wages and salaries and technology output over five years (2003–2008) as well as a 12-month job growth performance (March 2008 to March 2009), the concentration and diversity of technology industries and the number of specific high-tech industries (out of a possible 25) whose concentrations in a metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, are higher than the national average.

“‘Best performing’ sometimes means retaining what you have,” said Ross DeVol, director of regional economics and lead author of the report. “In a period of recession, the index highlights metros that have adapted to weather the storm. As we move forward in a recovery that still lacks jobs, metros will be further tested in their ability to sustain themselves.”

According to the report, Manchester-Nashua has a strong high-tech base, at 26th place among the 200 best-performing large cities, with a technology gross domestic product growth value in 2008 of 1.37, above the national benchmark of 1.00

The report also says Manchester-Nashua lost relatively few jobs in the March 2008-March 2009 time period, for a job “growth” of -1.71 percent — or 51st place. Rockingham-Stafford ranked 34th in the concentration of high-tech businesses above the country’s norm as well as 63rd in the job category.

“The Manchester area has seen a lot of high-tech emphasis in recent years,” said Armen Bedroussian, a research economist with the Milken Institute. “That definitely contributed to overall growth.”

He also said that the housing downturn had not been as severe in either region in New Hampshire.

Several New England cities were also named to the Best-Performing Small Metro list of cities less than 230,000 residents: Pittsfield, Mass., 61st; Barnstable Town, Mass., 86th; Bangor, Maine, 88th; Burlington-South Burlington, Vt., 92nd; and Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, 120th.

The country’s top performing metro area was Austin-Round Rock, Texas, followed by Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; and Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas.

A full copy of the report can be found at milkeninstitute.org/pdf/bpc2009.pdf. — CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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