By Bob Fruend

Southeast Business Journal

Rochester still qualifies as one of those job-creating types of towns, Forbes Magazine finds.

The magazine's annual list of Best Places for Business and Careers ranks Rochester 10th among the nation's small metropolitan areas.

Readers won't find that tidbit by flipping through the pages of the May 27 edition, where the 200 largest metro zones appear (San Jose, Calif., is No. 1.) They'll need to go online. The magazine placed its 96 Best Small Places on its Web site,


Although still in the top 10, Rochester was placed several rungs lower on the ladder than its third-place finish in 2001.

The Milken Institute analyzed nine categories of statistics in ranking the metro areas for Forbes. The Santa Monica, Calif., think tank primarily uses the most recent government data available in drawing the list.

This year, Rochester got a lot of lift from growth in jobs and salaries. The local area was ranked seventh for gains in new jobs over the past five years, and was 16th for salary increases. (Forbes scores all 296 metro areas together, but then splits away the smaller population areas.)

Slower but still steady

The performance wasn't quite as good on a 1-year basis, but still easily among the top third of metro areas. Rochester ranked 33rd in job creation and 90th in salary gains.

Most statistics are for 2001, although the most recent salary figures used were for 2000, a Milken spokesman said.

"We've slowed down a bit," Gary Smith, executive vice president for Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., says. But he said the 5-year horizon is a more meaningful measure for an area's economy than a single year.

Rochester did not place well in some high-tech measures, which had less effect on the rankings. Forbes figured Rochester ranked in the lowest third in growth of high-tech output as a percentage of the total economy over both one and five years.


The analysis also included a "job momentum" ranking, trying to track the reactions of metro areas to the 9-11 disaster and the lackluster economy in 2001. It was based on first-quarter employment this year. Rochester was one of the lowest-rated areas on that measure, placing 287th.

Nonetheless, the Forbes report remains a good recommendation for Rochester, Smith says. "If you're one of the top 10 in the whole country, that's still good stuff," he says.

And RAEDI makes sure that companies looking at Rochester for expansion or relocation take note of those types of statistics. "We use it all when we're telling the Rochester story," Smith says.

Forbes prefers to split its list by size. However, if all 296 metro areas were shown together, Rochester would have ranked 73rd, said spokesman Skip Rimer.

That would be just ahead of Minneapolis-St.. Paul, which placed 79th and of Madison,, Wis., at 80th. Among other regional areas, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, made it to 114th place, and Duluth, Minn.-Superior, Wis., was 151st.

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