Ever hear that ‘Texas is like a whole other country?’ It’s more than a catchy tourism slogan. Forget the popular notions of cattle ranches, oil fields, and Friday night football. Texas is tech these days. In Austin’s startup ecosystem, you’ll find more baseball caps and sneaks than cowboy hats and spurs. While the Lone Star State remains America’s energy breadbasket, industries like aerospace, biomedicine, and consumer products are thriving.
This diverse and fluid economy – bolstered by low taxes and hands-off regulation – may be one reason why nearly half of the 20 best cities to start a career are located in Texas. That was the finding of a recent study by WalletHub, a financial social network. In fact, four of the five best cities for young professionals – Irving, Grand Prairie, Austin, and Houston – are located in Texas. More strikingly, the top 20 cities are all based west of the Mississippi River. Talk about the call of the West!
BIGGEST CITIES RATED ON PROFESSIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND QUALITY OF LIFE
To measure appeal, WalletHub ranked the 150 most populous American cities on 19 metrics, “which were designed to collectively represent most of the issues that young people have in mind when looking for a place to set down roots.” These metrics were then divided into two categories: Professional Opportunities and Quality of Life.
The former included: the ratio of entry-level jobs per 100,000 inhabitants; monthly median income (adjusted for cost of living); annual job-growth rate; median income-growth rate; economic mobility; workforce diversity; unemployment rate; and WalletHub’s “entrepreneurial activity” ranking. Quality of life, which received half the weight of professional opportunities, encompassed these areas: median annual income (adjusted for cost of living); number of arts, leisure and recreation establishments (per 100,000 residents); percentage of population aged 25-34; strength of social ties; percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher; population growth; affordable housing; and WalletHub rankings for recreation, family friendliness, lifestyle for single people, and weather.
TEXAS: A GREAT PLACE TO WORK
Irving, Texas topped WalletHub’s list, buoyed by a No. 1 ranking in professional opportunities. A half hour west of downtown Dallas, Irving was once best-known for being the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Now it is a corporate hub, with leading firms like ExxonMobil, Kimberly-Clark, Fluor, and Michaels Stores headquartered there. According to the city’s 2014 annual comprehensive report, companies like Citigroup (7,500 employees), Verizon (3,260), Allstate Insurance (1,650), and Microsoft (1,351) also maintain sizable footprints in Irving. And that doesn’t count the Fortune 500 firms based in the region, including AT&T, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
Irving, home to roughly 220,000 people, currently holds a 3.9% unemployment rate, nearly a half point lower than the state as a whole (4.3%), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate has also steadily declined since its 9.1% high in mid-2009. Census Bureau statistics also show Irving’s average median household income at $50,778, with over a third of the population (34.8%) having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition, the median age of residents was 31.2 years (with only 6.9% being 65 or older), with the median value of a home at $136,400. In short, Irving is young, affordable, and flourishing economically.
Twenty minutes southwest of Irving, you’ll find the second-best city for launching a career: Grand Prairie, Texas. According to WalletHub, Grand Prairie ranks among the top five cities for starting salaries and entry level jobs, with the median household income being $55,908. The city is especially known for aerospace, with organizations like Lockheed Martin and Textron maintaining a large presence there.
Austin rounds out the top three. The state capital and home of the University of Texas, Austin is jokingly referred to as “Silicon Hills,” after its topography and entrepreneurial spirit. According to Forbes, the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, home to Dell and Golfsmith, ranks No. 1 for tech job creation, with the Austin Technology Council recently projecting that the city will create more than 2,300 new tech jobs a year over the next five years. At the same time, the city distinguishes itself as a cultural mecca. Dubbing itself as “the live music capital of the world,” Austin is among the leaders in music venues per capita, covering styles from country to jazz. And the city’s motto – “Keep Austin Weird” – reflects the city’s progressive air and Texas’ fiercely independent spirit. Is it any wonder why the city ranked first in quality of life?
DETROIT WORST PLACE TO START A CAREER
Overall, Texas placed 12 cities in WalletHub’s Top 50. California, despite its GDP being a quarter larger than Texas, placed seven fewer cities in the Top 50, headed by Fremont (just north of Silicon Valley) and San Francisco. Four Arizona cities, led by Chandler at 34th, also made the list. North Carolina and Colorado each placed three cities in the top 50.
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