Bay area tops in New Economy

The San Francisco-San Jose area — California's Silicon Valley — topped a list of metropolitan regions as the most adaptable, innovative and supportive of the New Economy, according to a study released Thursday.

The Metropolitan New Economy Index (available at www.neweconomyindex.org) ranked the country's top 50 metropolitan regions with populations of 50,000 or more. The study was conducted jointly by the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council, and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Based on a variety of measures — such as concentration of high-tech firms, international trade, and household and school Internet connectivity — the San Francisco Bay area scored 95.6 out of a possible 100. Austin, Texas, was a distant second, with a score of 77.9.

Rounding out the top five were Seattle; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and San Diego. At the bottom of the list were Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; San Antonio, Texas; and Grand Rapids, Mich.

There were 16 indicators in all, including the educational achievement of the workforce; the number of professional, managerial and technical jobs; jobs created and lost; the number of new companies; broadband capacity; the Internet infrastructure backbone; venture capital funding; research and development funding; and science and engineering degrees awarded.

"We think, at the Progressive Policy Institute, the New Economy has become one of the key issues that we would like to see cities [and] states addressing," said spokesman Matthew Frankel. "A study like this highlights the importance of the New Economy and highlights some of the challenges that cities need to face in the future."

For example, he said cities should look at the importance of education, being connected to the Web, the impact of globalization and the competitive job market as some conditions to improve.

Two years ago, the organization ranked the 50 states using similar indicators. He said it helped showcase areas, but also motivated states to improve by hosting forums and creating new strategies. Frankel said he hoped city officials would view the new study as an asset to create urban plans.

The report advises metropolitan areas to analyze their economic situation, create a skilled workforce, invest in infrastructure, create amenities and improve public safety to attract skilled workers.

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