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Data: Milken Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

San Francisco fell from No. 1 and was supplanted by Provo, Utah, in the Milken Institute's annual ranking of big metropolitan areas with the best regional economies.

Why it matters: As the pandemic prompts people to move from pricey superstar cities to mid-tier ones where life is cheaper and easier, traditional powerhouses are being upstaged by smaller places focused on economic vitality.

Driving the news: What a difference a (pandemic) year makes: The 2021 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index, released Wednesday, shows San Francisco, San Jose, Reno, Seattle and Dallas falling out of the top 10 places for job creation, wage growth, and innovation.

  • "Large cities in the Intermountain West and South are outperforming many areas on the coasts, mainly due to their higher levels of short-term job growth and more affordable housing," Milken said.
  • "For instance, Salt Lake City moves up 21 spots to come in at No. 4, and Huntsville, Alabama, has one of the largest jumps up in the rankings."
  • "Housing affordability" and "broadband access" were added as new index criteria this year.

What they're saying: "A relatively new innovation center with significantly lower costs than Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach, Provo-Orem has attracted tech giants including Qualtrics, Vivint, and SmartCitizen, among others," per the Milken Institute, a nonprofit think tank.

The big picture: This seismic shift of people and power can be a boon to the smaller cities that prosper — attracting more companies, capital and citizens — but it can also have deleterious effects on the qualities people cherish about them, like affordability and middle-class values.

  • Californians have been flocking to Idaho in such droves that they're pricing out locals, as Conor Dougherty writes in the NYT.
  • "Home prices rose 20 percent in 2020, according to Zillow, and in Boise, 'Go Back to California' graffiti has been sprayed along the highways."
  • Citing a recent study by Redfin, Dougherty says that "the budget for out-of-town home buyers moving to Boise is 50 percent higher than locals’ — $738,000 versus $494,000."
  • "In Nashville, out-of-towners also have a budget that is 50 percent higher than locals. In Austin it’s 32 percent, Denver 26 percent and Phoenix 23 percent."

Details: Large metropolitan areas with the biggest gains in the Milken rankings — even though they didn't crack the top 10 — include Wichita, Kansas; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin; and Lincoln, Nebraska.

  • The biggest losers in the rankings: Salinas, California; Elgin, Illinois; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California; Lake County-Kenosha County, Illinois-Wisconsin; and Des Moines, Iowa.

Go deeper

Where San Franciscans are really going

From this San Francisco neighborhood, it's possible to look longingly across the Oakland Bay Bridge to Alameda County. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

We've all seen countless stories about San Francisco tech workers decamping for Texas and Florida — but according to U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records, they're mostly moving to Bay Area suburbs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The big picture: The Chronicle analyzed postal service records and found that "the top six destinations for those fleeing the city were all Bay Area counties: Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Sonoma."

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.