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Top 10 Small Cities for Job and Wage Growth: 2015

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While the U.S. economy has bounced back, some cities are doing better than others. Financial advisors looking for a place to set up shop might want to take bank robber Willie Sutton’s advice and go where the money is.

Fortunately, the Milken Institute has used a data-driven formula to rank U.S. cities. Milken divided cities into large and small and used growth in jobs and wages and the robustness of high-tech industries as key benchmarks in its formula. Growth rates are indexed against a national average of 100.

The Milken report notes that job and wage growth contributes mightily to a community’s health. The housing market has rebounded from the bursting of the bubble, Milken said.

High-tech industry was key for many cities and, amazingly, the decline in the oil boom didn’t keep cities seemingly reliant on that industry from continuing to grow.

Check out the Top 10 Large Cities for Economic Growth.

Keep reading for Milken’s Top 10 Small Cities for Job and Pay Growth:

Railroad Avenue Historic District in Opelika, Alabama. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

10. Auburn-Opelika, Alabama.

2014 Rank: 10th

5-Year Job Growth: 107.09 (11th)

1-Year Job Growth: 101.13 (25th)

5-year Pay Growth: 101.37 (61st)

1-Year Pay Growth: 101.28 (16th)

Overall Index: 154

Takeaway: A strong job market fueled in part by the needs of a growing Auburn University helped the area of 154,000 stay at No. 10.

City of Logan, Utah Historic Courthouse. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

9. Logan, Utah-Idaho

2014 Rank: 35th

5-Year Job Growth: 103.07 (23rd)

1-Year Job Growth: 101.03 (28th)

5-year Pay Growth: 102.73 (52nd)

1-Year Pay Growth: 101.66 (36th)

Overall Index: 146

Takeaway: A relatively new tech sector added to the dairy and animal processing businesses that account for a third of all jobs in the area of 131,000.

Mirror Pond in Drake Park in Bend, Oregon. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

8. Bend-Redmond, Oregon

2014 Rank: 46th

5-Year Job Growth: 105.18 (15th)

1-Year Job Growth: 104.05 (3rd)

5-year Pay Growth: 94.21 (160th)

1-Year Pay Growth: 104.73 (6th)

Overall Index: 138

Takeaway: The metro region jumped 38 spots this year, led by its tourism industry, which is the backbone for the area of 170,000.

City Bridge in Columbus, Indiana.

7. Columbus, Indiana

2014 Rank: 2nd

5-Year Job Growth: 113.12 (5th)

1-Year Job Growth: 101.37 (23rd

5-year Pay Growth: 108.91 (14th)

1-Year Pay Growth: 97.05 (178th)

Overall Index: 135

Takeaway: Despite falling five spots this year, the city of 80,000 continued to have strong manufacturing job growth, as well the need for support services in that sector.

Residents ride in their golf carts along Main St. in The Villages. (Photo: AP)

6. The Villages, Florida

2014 Rank: Unranked

5-Year Job Growth: 113.33 (4th)

1-Year Job Growth: 102.81 (8th)

5-year Pay Growth: 132.43 (2nd)

1-Year Pay Growth: 109.35 (1st)

Overall Index: 133

Takeaway: This new metro area of 114,000 is the fastest growing metro area in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with population growth of 5.4% from July 2014 to July 2015.

Odessa, Texas

5. Odessa, Texas

2014 Rank: 12th

5-Year Job Growth: 123.33 (2nd)

1-Year Job Growth: 104.37 ((2nd)

5-year Pay Growth: 131.22 (3rd)

1-Year Pay Growth: 106.52 (3rd)

Overall Index: 129

Takeaway: The energy boom of the last decade helped the city of 153,000 rise seven spots.

Downtown Beloit, Wisconsin. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

4. Janesville-Beloit, Wisconsin

2014 Rank: 41st

5-Year Job Growth: 99.89 (58th)

1-Year Job Growth: 100.27 (56th)

5-year Pay Growth: 101.12 (63rd)

1-Year Pay Growth: 107.52 (3rd)

Overall Index: 126

Takeaway: GDP growth allowed the area of 161,000 to shoot up 37 places, with increased earning for business and professional services workers leading the way.

Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa. (Photo: AP)

3. Ames, Iowa

2014 Rank: 14th

5-Year Job Growth: 103.03 (24th)

1-Year Job Growth: 101.77 (19th)

5-year Pay Growth: 103.00 (48th)

1-Year Pay Growth: 100.99 (45th)

Overall Index: 124

Takeaway: Job growth, led by employment opportunities at Iowa State University, boosted the region of 94,000.

State Capitol in Bismarck. (Photo: AP)

2. Bismarck, North Dakota

2014 Rank: 4th

5-Year Job Growth: 107.80 (10th)

1-Year Job Growth: 100.23 (58th)

5-year Pay Growth: 128,54 (4th)

1-Year Pay Growth: 104.45 (8th)

Overall Index: 101

Takeaway: Despite a slowdown in the shale oil production, the city of 126,000 managed to snag the No. 2 spot mainly due to jobs created by the boom in health care, education and public infrastructure.

Downtown Fargo, ND. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

1. Fargo, North Dakota-Minnesota

2014 Rank: 1st

5-Year Job Growth: 108.39 (8th)

1-Year Job Growth: 101.69 (20th)

5-year Pay Growth: 116.48 (5th)

1-Year Pay Growth: 102.03 (27th)

Overall Index: 100

Takeaway: A diverse mix of industries helped the area of 228,000 hold onto the top spot for the second straight year despite the waning oil industry. 

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