Press Release: Most Dynamic Metropolitans Report Shows Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Sectors as Drivers for Economic Improvement


Heartland Forward releases its fifth edition of its annual report of America’s Most Dynamic Metropolitans

Bentonville, Ark. – American metropolitans with robust manufacturing, energy assets and investment in IT are at the forefront of the Most Dynamic Metropolitans (MDM) in Heartland Forward’s most recent index. For the fifth year in a row, the MDM provides a benchmark for growth areas in the country using key indicators of where Americans are thriving and highlighting communities where education, business and government are working well together.

The report blends data for area growth, young-firm prevalence and employment, education, income and other factors to create a snapshot of economic standing over the past year. This comparative perspective helps all economic planners create and evaluate policies that influence the well-being of their regions. This ranking uses data to identify and illustrate industry trends that have influenced economic growth over both the past year and the previous five years. By using multiple data points, the MDM index is a valuable resource for U.S. mayors and economic development departments.

Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward said: “Collaboration and cooperation are key takeaways from this year’s edition of the Most Dynamic Metropolitans. Building sustainable businesses with the encouragement of local and state governments demonstrates the power of community. Providing training opportunities for the next generation of workers helps all of us build stronger communities. The MDM report gives our leaders data they can use to make smart, long-term decisions around economic growth. We applaud the mayors and their development teams who work to build these healthy communities and encourage sustainable growth. Their efforts are reflected in their rankings in this year’s edition of the index.”

MDM ranks 382 metros by 10 metrics that collectively summarize a region’s vitality against its recent past including one- and five-year trends blending data for area growth, young-firm prevalence and employment, education, income and other factors to create a snapshot of economic standing. Metros can employ this data to evaluate their own policies and look at other regions for best practices around growth, development and community health. 

The rankings

Top 25 Metropolitans Areas in the United States for 2023:

  1. The Villages, Florida
  2. Midland, Texas
  3. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas
  4. Naples-Marco Island, Florida
  5. Provo-Orem, Utah
  6. Boulder, Colorado
  7. St. George, Utah
  8. Sebastian-Vero Beach, Florida
  9. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee
  10. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
  11. Boise City, Idaho
  12. Port St. Lucie, Florida
  13. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
  14. Odessa, Texas
  15. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
  16. Punta Gorda, Florida
  17. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
  18. Trenton-Princeton, New Jersey
  19. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
  20. College Station-Bryan, Texas
  21. Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Alabama
  22. Salt Lake City, Utah
  23. Missoula, Montana
  24. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida
  25. Idaho Falls, Idaho

Improvement in the heartland

The three most improved metros in this year’s index were in the heartland – Odessa, Texas, Longview, Texas and Kokomo, Indiana. Their rise in the rankings were evidence of the strength of oil and gas production and industrial manufacturing respectively to their areas. The remainder of the top 10 metros with best improvement in the heartland rankings were: Wichita, Kansas, Florence-Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Peoria, Illinois, Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana, Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Arkansas, Lawrence, Kansas and Topeka, Kansas. Each of these 10 metros moved up significantly reflecting the importance of creating and promoting sustainable businesses.

While often considered boom-or-bust, oil and gas-centric communities are now diversifying into other energy sources and building out their communities to be sustainable over the longer term. Not only Odessa and Longview in Texas but also Midland and Houston as well as Oklahoma metros Tulsa and Oklahoma City showed strong growth in this year’s rankings. These metros continue to demonstrate resilience and longer-term economic growth trajectories and their leaders should be commended for their foresight and planning.

Another significant finding this year was that the value of a skilled workforce capable of operating, programming and maintaining advanced robotic systems and AI-driven tools will continue to be key to advanced manufacturing operations and building strong metros.

Other key metros highlighted from the heartland include: 

  • Huntsville, Alabama – With a concentration of aerospace and defense business, and its adherent technology needs, Huntsville showed improved employment momentum growth of 5.3% between June 2022-June 2023. Located near the Cummings Research Park and the Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville’s leaders encourage collaborations across academia, government and private industry. Our research also noted the state has created an environment where collaboration is thriving with initiatives like the Alabama Industrial Development Training program providing specialized training to meet the specific needs of local industries.
  • Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana – Not only is this metro one of the most improved in the MDM rankings, it, too, sits at the nexus of academia and business. Home to Purdue University, with its acclaimed STEM programming, the area has attracted investment from firms including Automotive Robotics Indiana Labs, which is creating a new $10 million, 50,000-square-foot facility in Purdue Research Park. This initiative included support from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation with tax credits and training grants – an example of government and business collaborating to support job creation and economic growth. 
  • Topeka, Kansas – The Topeka MSA improved 125 spots to 138th this year with significant employment growth (5.4% for June 2022-June 2023) and a 7.2% increase in the same time frame for average annual pay growth. Again, the increased demand for advancedmanufacturing, in this case, aerospace components, has fueled Topeka’s growth with ongoing support from multiple businesses to support aviation workers and provide career pathways for those in the armed services. This is another instance of a community supporting job creation with an integrated approach to industry, government and education. 

The five-year club

This year’s report includes a special section spotlighting the 10 communities that have appeared in the top 30 all five years Heartland Forward has been compiling this data. These Most Dynamic Metropolitans share a number of traits: resilience, economic diversity, outdoor recreation, and the ability to support remote workers – particularly important during the pandemic and in the post-COVID years. These communities lie at the forefront of workforce development and sustained prosperity. 

The 10 metros that have been the in the top 30 every year are:

  • Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas
  • Boise City, Idaho
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Naples-Marco Island, Florida
  • Provo-Orem, Utah
  • Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
  • The Villages, Florida
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
  • St. George, Utah

We salute their communities’ leadership for building sustainable business and economic centers, and particularly for their resilience in navigating through and after the challenges posed by COVID-19 lockdowns. Each of these metropolitans represent in their own way the best of America and the importance of creating communities where a mix of recreation, business, learning and investment can thrive. 

Contact: Blake Woolsey,


About Heartland Forward:
Heartland Forward is a policy think-and-do tank dedicated to being a resource for states and local communities in the middle of the country. We do this by studying broad economic trends and building data-driven and community-tested partnerships, programs and policies to address the needs of the heartland – all while helping to change the narrative about the middle of the country and kick-starting economic growth.