Mid-Sized Cities That Could Soon Become Boomtowns
What do Seattle, Nashville and Atlanta all have in common? They were once mid-sized cities that have boomed in recent decades. Now those places boast high wages, red-hot housing markets and continued growth as they become large cities. If you had relocated to one of these cities ahead of the boom, you likely would have seen your net worth grow along with prospects in that town. Your wages would go up, your home value would go up and you’d be one of those locals complaining about traffic getting worse every year.
So where do you move now, in 2019, if you want to catch the next boomtown lift? We don't have a corporate crystal ball, but we did compile a list of 14 mid-sized cities that seem to have excellent prospects for job, business and property value growth in the next decade or two. There’s no common thread here: some have positioned themselves to growth with the next hot industry, while others are satellites to bigger cities offering decent quality of life and cheaper housing (for now).
Median household income (2017 dollars): $44,312
Median home value (Zillow): $309,000
Provo’s booming high-tech sector, coupled with job and wage growth across all industries, prompted the Milken Institute to name it the best performing city in the U.S. Adobe has a big presence in Provo, and nearby Brigham Young University is a source of jobs and talent that underpins the regional economy
Raleigh, North Carolina
Median household income (2017 dollars): $61,505
Median home value (Zillow): $273,400
Local leaders have worked to keep business costs low in Raleigh. The end result? Projected job growth of more than 42 percent over the next 10 years. The city increasingly falls on the radar of big companies looking to relocate from more expensive metropolitan areas while still having access to a deep talent pool.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Median household income (2017 dollars): $60,110
Median home value (Zillow): $392,000
All of northern Colorado is undergoing rapid growth, with 30,000 new residents projected by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But Fort Collins has a distinct advantage over other cities: it’s home to Colorado State University. Add in a cheaper cost of living than Denver and Boulder, and this city is well positioned to boom.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Median household income (2017 dollars): $58,202
Median home value (Zillow): $225,500
Like Raleigh, Charlotte is benefiting from state-level policies designed to make North Carolina more attractive to businesses. The professional, scientific and technical services industries grew by nearly 9 percent in 2016. Housing prices are on the rise as well, but still affordable: the media home price in Charlotte was $245,000 in 2016.
Population: Bradenton, 56,508; Sarasota, 56,994
Median household income (2017 dollars): Bradenton, $42,902; Sarasota, $45,073
Median home value (Zillow): Bradenton, $240,000; Sarasota, $260,500
In 2017, no metro area had more job growth than this one thanks in large part to Florida’s low unemployment rate. While the current median salary is about $41,000, that number is expected to grow as more companies look to set up in the area.
Median household income (2017 dollars): $48,533
Median home value (Zillow): $157,900
This city lies two hours to the west of New Orleans. And in the past five years, it has quietly added 60,000 jobs in the high tech sector. There’s also a new housing building boom after a post-recession slowdown that finally gave way in 2013. Need a non-economic incentive to move here? In 2014 the National Bureau of Economic Research named it the happiest city in the U.S.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Median household income (2017 dollars): $39,006
Median home value (Zillow): $150,500
The population growth in recent years has been driven by retirees, who are opting for the city with what USA Today readers once voted one of the best East Coast beaches. They also like that housing and cost of living is much cheaper than Florida and other retirement hot spots. But you don’t have to wait until you’re 65 to move to Myrtle Beach. That older population is driving job growth in health care and the service sector.
Median household income (2017 dollars): $37,243
Median home price (Zillow): $172,000
This city was quite literally nearly wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina. While many people left, many more arrived to undertake the rebuilding effort as city and state leaders sought to use the devastation as a chance to make a better city. That underpinned the rebirth of the local economy (which also benefits from gambling, which the state legalized in 1995). The 50,000 new homes built with government aid following Katrina have helped keep housing affordable and fueled a steady population growth.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Median household income (2017 dollars): $37,423
Median home value (Zillow): $135,000
It was once a down-and-out former textile town. Now other companies, like Krispy Kreme and Branch Banking and Trust Co., have moved in to set up headquarters in yet another North Carolina city on our list. Wake Forest University, Salem College and Winston-Salem State University have all helped spawn a slew of startups in the metro area as well. The housing stock is a mix of old and new, and fixer uppers can still be had for five figures.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Median household income (2017 dollars): $44,369
Median home value (Zillow): $161,700
The city’s Medical Mile is the place to go for clinical research. That blends in with older industries, like the long-standing furniture manufacturing presence in the city. And there’s a surprisingly robust craft beer sector in Grand Rapids as well – so much so that USA Today said the city had the “Best Beer Scene” in 2018. Other accolades include Best Place to Raise a Family (Forbes) and fifth most underrated city in the U.S. (Travel + Leisure). If you’re going to go, go quick: Home prices rose more than 15 percent last year and are continuing to move up.
Median household income (2017 dollars): $36,331
Median home value (Zillow): $173,900
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects Knoxville will see 38 percent job growth over the next 10 years. That has fueled a new home construction boom, but builders are struggling to keep up, as home prices rose nearly 10 percent last year. The city is at the junction of major Interstates, making bigger cities like Atlanta and Charlotte within easy reach. Closer to home, outdoor enthusiasts can spend weekends in the Smoky Mountains.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Median household income (2017 dollars): $30,137
Median home value (Zillow): $145,700
You’re not wrong if you think NASCAR and tourism when you hear the word Daytona, but the local economy is undergoing a period of rapid diversification, so much so that the Milken Institute named it the most improved local economy in the U.S. in 2016. Low housing costs and ocean breezes that make it more bearable than other parts of the state have made it Florida’s fastest growing metro area in each of the past five years.
Median household income (2017 dollars): $43,361
Median home value (Zillow): $224,000
You can live in Ogden and work in Salt Lake City, which is just 40 miles away. But living in Ogden will be 11.1 percent cheaper, when you compare median home prices between the two cities. But why commute when you can work closer to home? The federal government and health care remain Ogden’s biggest job creators, but the city is also working to attract more small and mid-sized tech firms. The effort paid off in 2015, when the Brookings Institute named it to its list of the Best Cities for Advanced Industries.
Median household income (2017 dollars): $45,869
Median home value (Zillow): $243,400
As Ogden is to Salt Lake City, Worcester is to Boston. Once a down-on-its-luck mill town, Worcester has remade itself by attracting younger workers with lower housing costs. There are also 11 colleges and universities in greater Worcester, helping to keep growing companies in good supply of workers. There’s been a makeover of downtown Worcester, as well as growth in biotech and medical companies. And the best part? Median home prices are half of those found in greater Boston.