The Charleston region climbed two slots and cracked the top 10 in an annual ranking of U.S. metropolitan areas based largely on the creation and retention of jobs.
The three-county region fell in at No. 10 in the 2008 Best-Performing Cities Index compiled by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit economic think tank.
The findings, released Wednesday, put Provo, Utah, in the top spot among the nation’s 200 largest metro areas.
Last year, Charleston was ranked 12th, up from 22nd in 2006.
Milken researchers cited several factors for the area’s improved standing this year, including its expanding tourism industry and the Port of Charleston, despite the recent slowdown in cargo volume.
“Another key source of growth is its expanding aerospace manufacturing sector, with specializations in advanced composite materials, precision metal parts and systems integration,” researchers said in the report.
Some notable recent examples are the Boeing Co. 787 suppliers that opened at Charleston International Airport and a $500 million plant expansion that chemical giant DuPont is building to make its strong, lightweight Kevlar material near Goose Creek.
The health care industry is also a key catalyst for local growth and quality jobs. The Medical University of South Carolina is a particularly “important component of the economy” because its marketable research assets can help attract new investment and employment from the bioscience industry, Milken said.
Indeed, MUSC this week sought approval from the city of Charleston to start work on a $55 million bioengineering center where experts could study how to grow replacement organs or regenerate certain body tissues.
Among other large metropolitan areas in South Carolina:
— The Myrtle Beach and Conway region fell to the 19th spot in the latest index from the 11th position last year.
— Columbia improved to 36th from 69th.
— The Greenville area climbed from 121st to 68th.
The index is based partly on one- and five-year measurements of job and wage growth. It also factors in four measurements of technology output, which Milken said play a critical role in whether regional economies expand, contract or stand still.
“We’ve seen energy, housing and even catastrophic events such as Hurricane Katrina impact a specific year, but consistently, those metros dedicated to growing their technology base and human capital beat the short-term shifts in the economy,” said Ross DeVol, author of the report and director of regional economics at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Milken.
See the rankings online at milikeninstitute.org.