LAS VEGAS -- When two think tanks ranked the nation's largest metros on how they performed during and after the Great Recession they reached vastly different conclusions about which cities belonged at the top of their lists.
But it should be of little surprise that Las Vegas faired poorly on both lists. Las Vegas ranked tied for 84th among the nation's 100 largest metros when the Brookings Institution in September examined industry composition and the level of education among workers. Las Vegas also ranked 197th among the 200 largest metros when the Milken Institute in December released its findings on job growth, wage and high technology performance.
What the Brookings and Milken lists also had in common were seven metros that made the top 25 of both lists. These are the metros and the way they were described by Milken:
* Austin/Round Rock/San Marcos, Texas (4th on Milken list, tied for 23rd on Brookings list) -- "It is the largest metro to exceed its peak level of employment prior to the recession. Given its concentration in chips and computers, both volatile industries, the region's economic stability is remarkable. The University of Texas, Austin, and the state capital have helped insulate Austin from the national economic contractions.
"Austin is a center of semiconductor production. After weathering a collapse in demand, Samsung Austin Semiconductor is expanding its huge fabrication facility...In addition, eBay is expanding its Austin office, and the city is attracting some operations of Facebook...Based in Round Rock, Dell is the largest technology employer in the metro area with more than 14,000 employees. It is investing heavily in data centers and rapidly adding high-skilled employees. IBM, Freescale Semiconductor, AT&T, Apple Computer, National Instruments and AMD are major employers in the region as well...Austin has one of the most educated populations in the country: over 37 percent of adults have at least a bachelor's degree."
* Provo/Orem, Utah (9th Milken, 22nd Brookings) -- "Local software and computer system design companies capitalized on revived business investment in IT software and equipment...Provo continues to build on its high-tech specialties while offering lower business costs than other tech-intensive cities.
"Over the next several years, employers IM Flash, a joint venture between Intel Corp. and Micron Technology, and EMC Corp. plan to expand. And Adobe Systems recently announced a future 230,000-square-foot campus in Lehi that will eventually employ 1,000 residents. Supporting Provo's high-tech mix is Brigham Young University. BYU not only produces skilled labor but also acts as a vital research anchor for area companies."
* Cambridge, Mass (12th Milken (including Newton/Framingham), tied for 2nd Brookings (including Boston/Quincy) -- "With a steady supply of high-skilled workers from MIT and Harvard University, the metro has a number of biopharmaceutical and defense companies, including Novartis, Genzyme, Biogen and Raytheon. A diverse mix of high-tech industries has propelled the metro forward through the recent downturn."
* Raleigh/Cary, N.C. (14th Milken, tied for 23rd Brookings) -- "Positioned in the Research Triangle, it has access to rich innovation assets, a highly-skilled labor pool and prominent industry clusters. The metro's diverse industry mix includes telecom, biomedical, software and IT services. These industries draw part of their workforce from nearby educational institutions, which attract a significant number of foreign students.
"Population growth has created more demand for health care services. Raleigh's health sector has added 2,200 positions since December 2007, and a $99 million expansion of the WakeMed North Healthplex in North Raleigh will creat more health care jobs."
* Washington, D.C.,/Arlington/Alexandria, Va. (17th Milken, 1st Brookings) -- "Federal employment has largely shielded the metro from the aftermath of the Great Recession, and 2009-2010 was no different. The government created 15,000 new jobs, providing a boost to many contractors, civil aviation operators, and government agencies involved in modernizing various segments of the nation's infrastructure.
"In the private sector, professional, scientific and technical services -- generally scientists and engineers -- helped sustain much of the metro's job growth."
* Omaha, Neb./Council Bluffs, Iowa (22nd Milken, 16h Brookings) -- "Omaha witnessed significant job growth in a number of industries around the card processing and financial services sector. Professional and business, credit intermediation, and insurance-related and other information services were among the largest gainers.
"Omaha is already home to a number of Fortune 500 companies: Berkshire Hathaway, Mutual of Omaha, Union Pacific Railroad, ConAgra Foods and Kiewit. The region's lower costs, favorable tax structure and strong university presence should continue to attract businesses and operations from out of state."
* Madison, Wis. (23rd Milken, tied for 2nd Brookings) -- "Madison's emerging high-tech sector, which ranks 32nd in terms of its diversity, added 500 workers in the last year. High-tech positions now account for 10.5 percent of the workforce. The University of Wisconsin acts as an important magnet for innovation and a critical anchor for developing the region's tech sector."
As of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Las Vegas metro area unemployment rate was 13.1 percent. In comparison, the unemployment rates were 4.3 percent in Omaha/Council Bluffs, 5.1 percent in Madison, 5.7 percent in Washington, D.C./Arlington/Alexandria, 6.2 percent in Cambridge/Boston, 6.3 percent in Provo/Orem, 7.1 percent in Austin/Round Rock/San Marcos, and 8 percent in Raleigh/Cary.