Knoxville falls on Forbes list of best cities for biz

UPDATE: Knoxville Chamber president’s comments added.

Metropolitan Knoxville dropped to No. 56 on Forbes’ 2010 list of the Best Places for Business and Careers.

That’s down from No. 43 on the 2009 list and a high-riding No. 10 in 2008.

Plummeting 46 spots in two years, that’s the bad news. The good news is that Knoxville still ranks higher than 144 of the 200 largest metros in the country.

It’s all relative.

Forbes considered a dozen metrics for its 12th annual rankings, including the cost of doing business, projected job growth, cost of living, income growth, educational attainment, crime and others.

The leaders on the metro list are mostly “Midwestern and Western cities, areas with reasonable business costs, strong economic outlooks and a solid quality of life,” the Forbes story says.

Des Moines, Iowa is No. 1, followed by Provo, Utah; Raleigh, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Lincoln, Neb.

Knoxville’s overall ranking was hurt by lower rankings in the cost of doing business, income growth and job growth categories. The sharpest decline was in income growth, falling to No. 193 from No. 142 in 2009.

The cost of doing business (labor, energy, taxes and office space) ranking in 2010 is No. 27, compared to No. 19 last year. The job growth ranking (five-year annualized figures) for this year is No. 116 compared to No. 92 in 2009.

As I mentioned, the news wasn’t all bad. Knoxville showed improvement in some metrics. The city’s ranking for educational attainment (share of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher) rose 11 spots to No. 84 from No. 95 on the 2009 list.

Metro Knoxville’s crime rate, sensational crime stories notwithstanding, also is better. Knoxville’s ranking (crimes per 100,000 people) improved to No. 117 from No. 126 last year.

The Knoxville area’s cost of living ranking (based on cost of housing, utilities, transportation and other costs) also improved, rising to No. 76 this year from No. 83 in 2009.

And, finally, Forbes expects Knoxville to generate more jobs than it did last year. The city’s projected job growth ranking rose to No. 126 from No. 142.

Knoxville Chamber President and CEO MIke Edwards sent the following e-mail:

Obviously we would like to be higher but Knoxville is 2nd  in Tennessee metros following only Nashville which is of course twice the size of our MSA. Cost of business is still low and efforts to increase standards and overall education in Tennessee should continue to improve educational rankings ( Knoxville is 2nd among TN metros in this category too).  Since the projected job growth is a 3 year annualized number, I would suspect that we are seeing the effects of companies that closed such as ImagePoint and Goody’s.

As we are just now beginning to see slight increases in the economy, hopefully next year we will move forward in these rankings.

Forbes Knoxville report for 2009.

Forbes Knoxville report for 2008.