The Best and Worst Run Cities in America

10. Scottsdale, Ariz.
> Population: 221,007
> Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 1.81 (7th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.8% (12th lowest)

Although Scottsdale was, like much of Arizona, hurt by the housing crisis — median home value dropped by almost one-third between 2007 and 2011 — the city fared better than much of the state following the recession. In 2011, when statewide annual unemployment rate was 9.5%, the city’s unemployment rate was just 6.8%. That same year, just 8.9% of Scottsdale residents lived below the poverty line, well beneath the national rate of 15.9% that year.The city is home to a number of large public companies, including restaurant operator Kona Grill and self-defense product maker TASER International. Scottsdale is also home to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, one of the nation’s largest annual college football games.

9.  Austin, Texas
> Population: 820,601
> Credit rating: Aaa, no outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 4.30 (27th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.2% (7th lowest)

Austin, the capital of Texas, had a stronger economy in 2011 than almost any other large city in the U.S. That year, the city’s unemployment rate was just 6.2% versus 8.9% nationally. The local housing market also avoided the housing crash as the median home value rose by 11.4% between 2007 and 2011, just as national home values fell by more than 10%. In 2011, the city’s GMP rose by 5%, well above the 1.6% average for the 363 metro areas surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Austin boasts a strong technology sector, with industry heavyweight Dell headquartered in nearby Round Rock, as well as major investments from Samsung and Apple. The state’s flagship university, the University of Texas at Austin, also has an incubator that helps new technology companies find funding.

Also Read: The Best and Worst Run States in America

8. Virginia Beach, Va.
> Population: 442,707
> Credit rating: Aaa, negative outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 1.75 (5th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.0% (5th lowest)

Virginia Beach’s economy benefits from the area’s sizeable military presence. According to the Virginia Beach Economic Development Authority, the 11 major military bases located within the  metro area provided a direct economic impact of $13.5 billion in 2011. According to the Daily Press, at the outset of the year, all four local congressmen, recognizing the importance of the military on the local economy, voted against the fiscal cliff deal, which postponed upcoming military cuts until March.  Compared to most major cities, financial hardship in Virginia Beach is relatively absent, with just 8.6% of residents living below the poverty line in 2011 — roughly half of the national rate, and the fourth-lowest among the largest cities. Violent crime is extremely low in the region, with just 1.75 reported violent incidents per 1,000 residents in 2011. Among the few negatives for Virginia Beach is that the metro area’s GMP contracted by 1.1% in 2011 when the average metro area in the U.S. grew by 1.6%.

7. Raleigh, N.C.
> Population: 416,126
> Credit rating: Aaa
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 4.22 (25th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.6% (tied- 28th lowest)

The Research Triangle has consistently brought high-skilled labor to the Raleigh area, with major employers including IBM and Cisco Systems. Accompanying this is a very well-educated workforce. More than 45% of city residents over 25 have at least a Bachelors degree, compared to the 28.5% of adults nationwide. Raleigh, along with surrounding areas, grew its total employment by 35.9% between 2000 and 2010, and the trend continued in 2011. The area’s GMP increased by 3% in 2011, among the 10 highest growth rates of all metro areas and significantly higher than the 1.7% average among U.S. metro areas. Last December, city mayor Nancy MacFarlane was on BBC’s “Newshour” after Raleigh was identified by the network as one of the “cities of the future.” The program highlighted the fact that the city is one of the fastest growing in the U.S., largely due to mayor’s emphasis on sustaining job growth through a strong tech sector.

6. Seattle, Wash.
> Population: 620,778
> Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 5.93 (45th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (tied- 23rd lowest)

Thanks in part to its strong, tech-heavy job market, Seattle has continued to sell itself as a desirable city for young professionals and wealthy individuals. Nearly one in five workers were employed in generally high-paying scientific, professional, and management occupations in 2011, the fourth-highest proportion among large U.S. cities. In 2011, 13.5% of households in the city earned more than $200,000, the seventh-highest percentage of all large cities. scienti Meanwhile, just 3.7% of households earned under $10,000, the ninth-lowest rate in the country. Seattle is a highly educated city, with 56.2% of residents over the age of 25 having a bachelor’s degree. This is more than all major cities except Plano, Texas.

5. Fremont, Calif.
> Population: 216,912
> Credit rating: Not rated
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 1.77 (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (tied- 23rd lowest)

Fremont was incorporated in 1956, joining five towns together as a single city. The city is near the core of Silicon Valley, while also connected to San Francisco by the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. It has one of the most educated and high-earning populations in America, with over 51% of residents age 25 and older holding a college degree in 2011. That year, median household income was $92,665, the highest of any large city in the U.S. The city has an exceptionally strong manufacturing base, with almost 22% of working adults employed in the sector. Among the companies with manufacturing operations in Fremont are tech manufacturers Western Digital and Seagate Technologies, as well as electric car builder Tesla Motors.

4. Lincoln, Neb.
> Population: 262,350
> Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 3.71 (18th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.9% (the lowest)

Lincoln’s 3.9% unemployment rate in 2011 was the lowest of all metropolitan areas in the country. The city is home to the University of Nebraska’s flagship campus, which employs more than 8,000. Like Omaha, Lincoln has been spared from the recession more than most places. Home values rose 2.7% between 2007 and 2011 compared to a 10.7% drop nationwide. In 2011, just 0.36% of Lincoln’s homes were in foreclosure, the eighth-lowest rate among large cities. Like many of the other top-rated cities, Lincoln’s general obligation debt is rated as a perfect Aaa, with a stable outlook.

3. Irvine, Calif.
> Population: 215,511
> Credit rating: Not rated
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 0.56 (the lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (tied- 11th lowest)

With almost 97% of residents aged 25 and over with at least a high school diploma, and with nearly 63% with at least a bachelor’s degree, Irvine has the most educated population of all of the 100 most populous cities. The city’s high educational attainment has translated to a highly compensated population — a whopping 18.8% of households earned more than $200,000 in the last year. Irvine has the lowest violent crime rate of all the 100 largest cities, with just 0.56 violent crimes per 1,000 people in 2011. Irvine’s government has received a lot of flack recently for its efforts to transform the Orange County Great Park, with critics arguing that more than $200 million worth of spending has gone to waste. The newly elected City Council has pledged more oversight on spending and has terminated contracts with two firms working on the project.

Also Read: The 10 Most Expensive Cities to Buy a Home

2. Madison, Wis.
> Population: 236,889
> Credit rating: Aaa, stable
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 3.48 (15th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.9% (2nd lowest)

Madison is home to the state capitol, as well as the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus. In addition, the region is a base to employers in fields such as technology and healthcare. The unemployment rate of 4.9% in 2011 was the second-lowest among all large cities in the U.S. Of the city’s adult population, 54% have a bachelor’s degree, the third-highest rate among the top 100 largest cities. In December, the Madison City Council adopted a rule banning the government from using emergency reserves to fund the operating budget unless two-thirds of members vote otherwise. With the city exercising this kind of caution, it is no surprise Moody’s analytics rates madison general obligation debt as a perfect Aaa, with a stable long-term outlook.

1. Plano, Texas
> Population: 271,380
> Credit rating: Aaa, no outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 1.62 (2nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (13th lowest)

Plano, based in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, is the best-run city in America. Among households in the city, 14% earned over $200,000 in 2011, the fourth-highest proportion of all cities. Meanwhile, a mere 1.9% of households earned under $10,000, which was the second-lowest of all cities. The city’s 1.62 violent crimes per 1,000 people is the second-lowest of all large cities. Plano is home to many corporate headquarters, including J.C. Penney and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. These companies are among the 10 largest employers in the city. The city appears to be largely unaffected by the housing crisis. The median home price rose by more than 5% between 2007 and 2011, while the national median price fell by more than 10%.

Also Read: The Worst Run Cities in America

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