GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The Grand Rapids metropolitan area had the ninth fastest growing economy in the U.S. last year and the 69th fastest growing economy among the 300 largest metropolitan areas in the world, according to a study released Thursday, Jan. 22, by the Brookings Institution.
While developing metropolitan areas still lead the world on economic growth, developed metro areas from the United States and the United Kingdom registered significant improvements in 2014, the Brookings study said.
These findings come from a new report by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, released today as a part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase.
Macau, China, was the world’s top-performing metro area in 2014, followed by the Turkish cities of Izmir, Istanbul and Bursa. Nineteen of the top 25 ranked metropolitan areas were in Turkey or China.
The Grand Rapids area won its ranking thanks to a 3.3 percent growth in employment from 2013 to 2014 and its 0.6 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
Other cities on the list topped Grand Rapids in income growth, but the region’s growth in employment levels helped it rise above last year’s ranking of 73rd.
The latest ranking places Grand Rapids just behind Beijing, China, and Las Vegas, Nevada, and just ahead of Dongguan, China, and Edinburgh, Scotland.
The ranking describes the Grand Rapids-Wyoming region as “partially recovered” from the last recession. The Detroit metropolitan area was ranked 237th and described as “not recovered.”
Economist Paul Isely, associate dean of economics in Grand Valley’s Seidman College of Business, said The Brookings Institution’s rankings reflect the strength of the auto industry’s recovery for West Michigan’s automotive parts suppliers.
The growth in West Michigan’s economy also reflects the depths of the auto industry’s woes during the past 14 years, Isely said.
“We’re barely above our 2000 levels,” Isely said. “The rest of the country came out of the 2001 recession and then went back into another one. We were down for 10 years because of automotive. Over the last four years, the domestic automotive industry has come back.”
In 2009, the Grand Rapids-Wyoming region was ranked 83th in The Brookings Institution’s rankings of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.
Isely said it will be difficult for Grand Rapids to stage a return to the list next year because the recovery has stretched the region’s ability to add more jobs.
“Really, we’ve run out of labor for the types of industry we have,” said Isely, who estimated employment in West Michigan grew by 3.8 percent last year.
In a forecast he presented last week, Isely predicted the growth in West Michigan’s labor market would slow to between 2.8 percent and 3.5 percent in 2015.
Last month, the four-county Grand Rapids-Wyoming labor market reported an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent – tied for the lowest in the state – while neighboring Ottawa and Barry counties were tied for third with jobless rates of 3.8 percent. Allegan County reported an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent while Ionia County stood at 4.3 percent.
Though West Michigan’s economy appears to be on a boom-or-bust cycle, Isely said the region has diversified to prevent the types of lows it hit over the past decade.
“We have been able to capitalize on that with a broader economic growth,” he said. “Whether it be beer, medical or agricultural, we’ve diversified our advanced manufacturing so that as that income came in from automotive, we were able to expand into other industry sectors.”
Other U.S. cities listed among the top 75 cities by Brookings include: Austin, Texas (38), Houston, Texas (39), Raleigh, N.C. (41), Fresno, Calif. (49), Dallas, Texas (63), Baton Rouge (65), Oklahoma City, Okla. (66), Las Vegas, Nev. (68), San Jose, Calif. (72) and Orlando, Fla. (73).