America's fastest-growing cities, 2012

Forbes

There was a time in the early 1990s when Austin, Texas, was the quintessential see-through city, with empty office towers downtown and vacant subdivisions meandering through the surrounding limestone hills.

No longer. Austin realtor Kevin Elliott says buyers are snapping up houses as companies like Apple, Progressive Insurance and Whole Foods add hundreds of jobs and out-of-staters gladly pay up for what, to them, appear to be ridiculously cheap homes.

In pictures: America's Fastest-Growing Cities

“My last three listings I’ve had multiple offers, and they sold for either full price or more than full price,” said Elliott, with the Home Resource Group of Keller Williams Realty. “They were all under contract within 48 hours.”

A revived home market is just one side of the boom in Austin, which ranks first on Forbes’ list of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities for the second year in a row. The Austin metropolitan area — including the northern suburb of Round Rock, home to Dell Computer — is expected to have an economic growth rate of 6% a year through 2016, according to Moody’s Analytics, more than double the nation as a whole. Apple is likely to sign off soon on plans to build a $304 million operations center that will employ as many as 3,600 people.

To construct the list, we ranked the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas according to projections of economic and population growth from Moody’s. We then factored in median income, unemployment rates and employment growth, to discriminate between cities like Austin, which are getting larger, and rebounding economies like Las Vegas. This filtering also knocked out fast-growing cities like McAllen, Texas, where a No. 4 rank on economic growth was countered by a bottom-quartile performance on median household income.

5. Salt Lake City, UT

Photo: David Crowther/istockphoto

Projected economic growth rate, 2011-2016: 4.4%
Population growth: 1.5%
Current population: 1.16 million
Median income: $65,405


4. Houston, TX

Photo: Michael DeFreitas Danita Delimont Photography/Newscom

Projected economic growth rate, 2011-2016: 6.1%
Population growth: 2%
Current population: 6.23 million
Median income: $55,297


3. San Jose, CA

Photo: Xin Zhu/istockphoto

Projected economic growth rate, 2011-2016: 4.7%
Population growth: 0.9%
Current population: 1.88 million
Median income: $83,551


2. Dallas, TX

Photo: Chad Ehlers Stock Connection Worldwide/Newscom

Projected economic growth rate, 2011-2016: 5%
Population growth: 2.2%
Current population: 6.23 million
Median income: $55,526


1. Austin, Texas

Photo: Ben Blankenburg/istockphoto

Projected economic growth rate, 2011-2016: 6.1%
Population growth rate: 2.8%
Current MSA population: 1.8 million
Median income: $56,613


In pictures: America's Fastest-Growing Cities




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