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The first shall be last ...

Just guessing here, but I’d say there’s an excellent chance that Ocala, Fla., will not be ranked No. 1 in the nation again next year—as it was today—in the Milken Institute / Greenstreet Partners Best Performing Cities Index.

Other cities that I’m guessing will tumble next year in the Milken/Greenstreet rankings are No. 2 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.; No. 4 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.; No. 5 Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla.; and No. 6 Naples-Marco Island, Fla.

We’re seeing a major reversal of fortune for metros whose growth came from real estate speculation. (Check out this recent USA Today story on Ocala, which boomed as a cheap option in increasingly expensive Florida.)

In contrast, I think the two North Carolina metros on the top 10 are likely to hold up pretty well: No. 2 Wilmington and No. 10 Raleigh-Cary. The port city of Wilmington is growing because of international trade—a far more durable source of competitive advantage. Raleigh-Cary has high tech.

Milken says the index “ranks U.S. metros based on their ability to create and sustain jobs. It includes both long-term (five years) and short-term (one year) measurements of employment and salary growth. There are also four measurements of technology output growth, which are included because of technology’s crucial role in regional economic growth.”

We’ll see how sustained the growth in Ocala, Phoenix, and Riverside turns out to be.

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