Feb 6, 2024 - News

Richmond ranks higher than NoVa in annual city performance study

Illustration of a winner's medal shaped like a location pin.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Richmond is on the rise as a top performing city when stacked against every other major metro in the nation.

Driving the news: RVA was one of five large metros that saw a significant gain in its ranking in Best Performing Cities, an annual big deal list put out by the Milken Institute and released first to Axios.

  • The nonpartisan nonprofit think tank assessed 403 U.S. metropolitan areas using 12 economic metrics, based on data from January 2022-August 2023.

Why it matters: The report looks at wages, job growth, cost of living and the presence of high tech industries — and gives cities bragging rights.

Zoom in: Richmond jumped 70 slots in this year's ranking, from No. 160 last year to No. 90 for 2024, driven largely by strong job gains in the leisure and hospitality industry.

  • Richmond was one of five cities that "benefited primarily from robust employment growth between 2021 and 2023," the report found.
  • And was one of three (along with Houston and Elgin, Illinois) that saw between 8% and 15% growth in hospitality jobs.
  • The move also makes Richmond a Tier 3 city, up from its Tier 4 ranking last year.

Yes, but: Richmond barely cracked the top 100, while two North Carolina cities (Raleigh and Charlotte) landed in the top 10.

  • (Plus, Tier 3 out of 5 isn't necessarily something to brag about.)

But, but, but: At No. 90, Richmond ranked higher than NoVa and the DMV (No. 98) and Virginia Beach (No. 176).

Of note: This year's rankings took two new factors into consideration: income inequality and "resilience," defined as a city's ability to withstand severe weather and economic turmoil.

Zoom out: Austin, Raleigh, Boise, Salt Lake City, Provo, Nashville, Northwest Arkansas, Dallas, Olympia and Charlotte are Milken's top 10 Best Performing Cities.

  • Austin nabbed the top spot because of its "rapid growth in jobs, wages, and high tech," per the report.

What they're saying: "These rankings really look at growth," Maggie Switek, an author of the Milken report, tells Axios. "What we mean by top-performing is that these are the cities that are growing the fastest."


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