By Jim Bruckbauer

Every year, the Milken Institute in California ranks the Best-Performing Cities according to economic growth.  These include long-term and short-term measurements of employment, salary growth, and high-tech output.

This year’s rankings of where America’s jobs are being created and sustained shows the impact of a broad rebound in the technology sector, along with strong activity in exports and energy production.

It seems as though cities that depend on industry and manufacturing are still continuing to show a steady long-term decline. The lowest performers on this year’s index came from the industrial Midwest, with nine of the lowest-ranked cities found in Michigan or Ohio.

From their findings, among the nation’s 200 largest metro areas, these are the top 10 performers of 2008 (with their 2007 rankings in parentheses):

1. Provo-Orem, Utah (8)
2. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina (10)
3. Salt Lake City, Utah (18)
4. Austin-Round Rock, Texas (20)
5. Huntsville, Alabama (16)
6. Wilmington, North Carolina (2)
7. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (7)
8. Tacoma, Washington (50)
9. Olympia, Washington (37 in the 2007 ranking of small metros)
10. Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina (12)

Among America’s 20 largest cities, Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas, posted the best performance of 2008. Previous standouts Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California, and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona, both experienced significant declines, most likely due to their housing markets.

In a separate ranking of 124 small metro areas, Midland, Texas came out on top. Like other booming Texas towns, Midland is enjoying a strong boost from oil and gas production.

It will be interesting to see who makes the ranks on the Best-Performing Cities index in future years. For more info on their report, check out