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How We Chose Our Top Ten Cities for 2009

Here's a brief overview of our Best Cities methodology.

Our process is based on the work of Kevin Stolarick, of the Martin Prosperity Institute, a think tank that studies economic prosperity. Stolarick came up with a formula that identifies cities with stable employment, even in tough times. "We found cities that are independent of the national trends -- places that may slow down but still keep adding jobs," Stolarick says.

BEST CITIES 2009:

SLIDE SHOW: Our 2009 Best Cities at a Glance

PODCAST: How We Ranked Our Top Places

TOOL: Find Your Best City

RANKINGS: See All 361 Metro Areas

HOME: Go to Best Cities Center

Based on the formula, which includes data such as income growth and cost of living, we looked for places with a professional, high-quality workforce that will help generate new jobs and businesses once the recession ends.

Stolarick also included in the formula a measurement of the "creative class," which comes from his work with Richard Florida, academic director of the Martin Institute and author of The Rise of the Creative Class. Creative-class workers -- scientists, engineers, educators, writers, artists, entertainers and others -- inject both economic and cultural vitality into a city and help make it a vibrant place to live.

We whittled the list of candidates to ten cities based on the numbers and our preliminary reporting. Then we traveled to most of the cities to interview business and community leaders. Our rankings factor in both the data and the results of our travels.

For more details, listen to our podcast with Stolarick and Senior Editor Bob Frick.