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By Sue Owen September 5, 2012
By W. Gardner Selby September 5, 2012

Julián Castro says Milken Institute named San Antonio nation’s top-performing local economy

Second-term San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro did not shy from celebrating his hometown during his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention.

Addressing the delegates assembled in Charlotte, N.C., Castro said that San Antonio residents recognize the value of investing in pre-Kindergarten and student college loans. "We're investing in young minds today to be competitive in the global economy tomorow," Castro said. "And it's paying off. Last year the Milken Institute ranked San Antonio as the nation's top-performing local economy."

Castro made the same claim in his keynote at the Texas Democratic Party convention. In that June 8, 2012, speech -- which we’ve previously dipped into twice -- Julián Castro said his city’s investments in infrastructure and education paid off "late last year when San Antonio was ranked as the top-performing local economy by the Milken Institute."

Indeed, we confirmed, San Antonio topped Milken’s 2011 list of the nation’s best-performing large metropolitan areas, rocketing up from 14th place the year before. Its rise is part of a recent trend in which Texas cities have dominated the list as the nation recovers from the 2007-09 recession.

The economic think tank’s annual list, which Milken spokesman Conrad Kiechel told us by phone has been issued in its current form for "more than a decade," was described in a Dec. 30, 2011, Texas Tribune news story as "a ranking that measures American metropolitan areas based on their ability to create and sustain jobs."

Milken’s 2011 report on the best-performing cities says the index gives priority to job and pay gains, then some weight to several technology measures in relation to national averages: the local growth in high-tech gross domestic product, the concentration of tech industries and how many of 25 specific tech industries are concentrated there. Some measures are weighed across five-year spans, to flatten out extreme swings, and the most recent year, "to capture recent momentum."

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In recent years, the Tribune said, "companies have flocked to San Antonio, making it an economic center rivaling Houston and Dallas." In contrast to those cities, though, "San Antonio has attracted high-wage jobs, capitalizing on its booming medical research industry."

The Tribune story said InCube and Medtronic were the latest bioscience companies to move to San Antonio, which was already home to global headquarters for Valero Energy, Clear Channel Communications, USAA insurers and the H-E-B grocery chain.

The San Antonio Express-News credited the city’s rise to reasons "including military base realignment, drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale and the growth of health care" in a Dec. 16, 2011, news story.

Texas cities held four of the top five spots on Milken’s 2011 big-cities list, with Austin/Round Rock at fourth. Back in 2008, Austin was Texas’ only top-five city, but the state claimed most of those slots in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The other chart-toppers for 2011 were No. 2, El Paso; No. 3, Fort Collins/Loveland, Colo.; and No. 5, Killeen/Temple/Fort Hood.

Texas’ rise in the ranks, the Express-News wrote, came partly because of downturns in other parts of the country. The story quoted research economist James Gaines of Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center: "Our growth rate and advancement isn't all that wonderful. We've managed to stay flat or have very small positives. But because everybody has so many negatives, we look so much better."

A Philadelphia Inquirer columnist interviewed Milken’s chief research officer, Ross DeVol, and wrote Dec. 16, 2011 that "Technology and energy explain why nine Texas cities placed in the top 25 of the 2011 Milken ranking."

Our ruling

San Antonio hasn’t just been holding steady in the economic downturn; it’s been gaining ground, even compared to other Texas cities. Castro’s statement rates True.

Our Sources

Keynote speech by Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, at Texas Democratic Party State Convention, Houston, June 8, 2012

Texas Tribune news story, "As San Antonio Grows, So Does Its Confidence," Dec. 30, 2011

San Antonio Express-News news story, "S.A. is named nation's top-performing city," Dec. 16, 2011

Philadelphia Inquirer column, "Region on the rise in new economic ranking," Dec. 16, 2011

Telephone and email interviews with Conrad Kiechel, Milken Institute director of communications, July 31, 2012

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Julián Castro says Milken Institute named San Antonio nation’s top-performing local economy

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