RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The Raleigh-Cary metro area ranks No. 3 – just behind its rival Austin, Tx. – and Wilmington comes in at No. 7 in the widely followed Milken Institute’s annual Best Performing Cities report.

The Raleigh metro vaulted from 16th a year ago. 

One reason for Raleigh’s rise: A 12.4% improvement in the tech sector as measured by Milken. It’s up 33.6% over the past five years.

Durham-Chapel Hill came in at No. 29, down from No. 11 last year.

Among small cities, Burlington ranks No. 10.

Reports such as the Milken assessment are among the data economic developers and industrial recruiters consider for possible new business or expansion locations. The Triangle often scores well in such reports, and North Carolina has been cited as the best place to do business by CNBC as well as the top state for business development by Site Selection magazine.

“The Index, published annually since 1999, reflects cities’ effectiveness at leveraging their resources to promote economic growth and provide their residents with access to the essential services and infrastructure needed for success,” a spokesperson for Milken – a non-partisan think tank – says. “Its components include job creation, wage growth, and the high-tech sector’s output growth. Since 2021, the Index also includes measures of housing affordability and broadband access that reflect access to economic opportunities of cities’ residents.”

Provo, Utah topped the large city list for the third consecutive year. Idaho Falls, Idaho ranked No. 1 among small cities.

Common themes among the winners:

  • a vigorous and growing high-tech sector
  • rebounding leisure and hospitality sectors
  • above average broadband access

However, “housing affordability” is a concern.  “While remarking on the strong performance of top-ranked cities, this year’s BPC report also noted that cities should aim to increase their supply of affordable housing to remain attractive to young generations of workers,” the Institute says.

Housing prices in Raleigh and the Triangle region soared to record levels after the COVID pandemic but have dropped slightly in recent months.

The rankings:


Provo–Orem, UT
Austin–Round Rock, TX
Raleigh, NC
Nashville–Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN
Boise City, ID MSA
Dallas–Plano–Irving, TX
Wilmington, NC
Phoenix–Mesa–Scottsdale, AZ
Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers, AR–MO
Palm Bay–Melbourne–Titusville, FL


Idaho Falls, ID
Logan, UT–ID
St. George, UT
The Villages, FL
Bend–Redmond, OR
Punta Gorda, FL
Coeur d’Alene, ID
Missoula, MT
Sioux Falls, SD
Gainesville, GA
Prescott, AZ
Bloomington, IN
Wenatchee, WA
Burlington, NC

Durham-Chapel Hill soars 32 spots on Best Performing Cities list; Raleigh slips; Wilmington rises