The Top 12 American Boomtowns

By Bloomberg Rankings and Nikhil Hutheesing - 2013-04-24T14:48:01Z

Photograph by Steve Lewis/Getty Images 

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Portland-Beaverton Oregon, Vancouver Washington   

2007 Population: 2,175,113
2011 Population: 2,262,605
Percent Change: 4.02
GDP Compound Annual Growth: 5.23%

Portland, known as the “City of Roses” for its many rose gardens, has had the fastest economic growth in the country. It is, however, dealing with a few thorns. The city has invested $1 billion in its transit service to accommodate its growth, with a new “light rail” train service to better connect neighborhoods. Census data, though, show that only a little more than 1 in 10 new workers used the transit system during the past decade. Meanwhile, traffic congestion has increased more than four times the national average.

The population is rising -- there were 2.3 million people in 2012 -- yet unemployment is 8.3 percent. The television show “Portlandia” dubbed the city “the place where young people go to retire.” A study by Portland State University noted that many college-educated students are drawn by the low cost of living, which allows them to bypass jobs at big companies such as Intel Corp. and Nike Inc. Instead, they try to start their own companies and make a little money through part-time work. Brookings Institution’s Friedhoff says another reason for the unemployment rate is that in the thick of the recession, many people moved to Portland for its lower cost of living.  As companies cut hiring, people weren't able to find jobs.