El Paso drops in ranking

El+Paso+ranks+as+No.+53+out+of+200+best+performing+cities+by+the+Milken+Institute%2C+a+nonprofit+organization+that+publishes+research+on+economics.

Michaela Roman

El Paso ranks as No. 53 out of 200 best performing cities by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit organization that publishes research on economics.

Maria Esquinca, Copy Editor

El Paso was ranked this year as No. 53 out of 200 best performing cities by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit organization that publishes research on economics. This is an 18-point drop from the previous year.

Austin, Texas, came in at No. 2, and was one out of seven from Texas that made the top 20 list.

The report said that the ranking comes from stable employment, expanding salaries and thriving businesses. It also provides a tool for understanding consumer markets and business opportunities.

Some of the criteria used to rank the cities were job growth, wage growth and high-tech gross domestic product concentration, among others.

One the criteria El Paso scored high in was job growth from 2007-2011.

“El Paso ranked very favorably in terms of other metropolitan cities in the U.S. because there was still a lot of non-residential construction activity going here,” said Thomas Fullerton, professor of economics at UTEP.

However, El Paso ranked low in all areas concerning high-tech GDP. Fullerton said because of El Paso’s location, it has not been able to attract high-tech companies.

“Its worthwhile to note that El Paso is not located closely to any of the high-tech geographic clusters in the U.S.,” Fullerton said. “The closest one of those is more than 500 miles away.”

Fullerton said another reason El Paso has not been able to attract high-tech industries is because the city has a large uneducated workforce.

“On that basis, it would be surprising if there were a lot of high-tech activity here in this region,” Fullerton said.

Data from the U.S. Census shows that 12.1 percent of the population 25 years or older has a bachelor’s degree, while 22.5 percent has a high school diploma—lower than the state and national average.

“What we have to do as a community is we’ve got to be able to retain the talent here in El Paso,” said Cari Westin, managing director of economic development for El Paso. “Offering the amenities in the community that’s going to keep graduates here is important.”

Adrian Aguilar, senior electrical engineering major, said after he graduates he’s going to have to leave El Paso because there aren’t any jobs offered for his degree.

“There’s nothing here,” Aguilar said. “It’s very typical. Usually a lot of people that graduate have the tendency to leave.”

Westin said some of the efforts by the city to add more amenities include the baseball park and downtown revitalization.

“All these quality-of-life things are very appealing to a talented workforce,” Westin said.

Despite the drawbacks, a recent set of 10 company openings and expansions, equating to a total of 3,000 jobs, could favorably affect El Paso’s ranking next year.

“We’ve seen the best year this past year in El Paso, in terms of our economic growth relative to job creation,” Westin said.

Some of the companies that will expand their workforce include Tenet Healthcare, ADP, Charles Schwab and Schneider Electric, among others.

Pamela Morales, communication director for the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said El Paso might have ranked higher if the report had considered trade.

“They’re not talking about all the great things we know about El Paso,” Morales said. “Total trade for El Paso last year was more than $60 billion.”

Both Fullerton and Westin said much progress lies ahead regarding El Paso’s economic future.

“The report is an interesting snapshot of where things were in the last year,” Fullerton said. “It’s important to recognize however, that it is a snapshot.What’s really critical is what happens in El Paso over the long run.”