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ABQ drops in best-cities ranking

downtownALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The relative strength of its technology sector provided a bright spot in the Albuquerque metro area’s otherwise precipitous drop in the Milken Institute’s annual index of the country’s best-performing cities.

Albuquerque placed 179 out of 200 in the large city category, falling 24 spots from its ranking of 155 in Milken’s 2013 index of best-performing cities. The report says the index is designed to measure how well cities are “promoting economic vitality based on job creation and retention, the quality of new jobs, and other criteria.”

For perspective, Albuquerque placed 20th among large cities in the Milken index in 2004.

While some measures like job growth and wages were dismal in 2014, Albuquerque’s index scores were strong for the relative size and productivity of its high-tech sector compared to its overall economy. Albuquerque’s tech scores are comparable to those of Baltimore, Trenton, N.J., and Washington, D.C.

The high-tech scores “gauge an area’s participation in the knowledge-based economy,” the report says. But the tech scores were not high enough to offset low scores in more heavily weighted index categories like job growth, wages and output.

At a ranking of 179, Albuquerque is grouped with places like Rockford, Ill.; Erie, Pa.; and Port St. Lucie, Fla. Rounding out the bottom of the rankings were Youngstown, Ohio, at 199 and Atlantic City, N.J., at 200.

The top five best-performing large cities were San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Provo, Utah; San Jose, Calif.; and Raleigh, N.C. California and Colorado each had four metros in the Top 25.

One of the most improved large cities in the Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank’s rankings was Lubbock in West Texas, which jumped from 69 in 2013 to 20 in 2014. The top 100 large cities included El Paso at 53, Tulsa, Okla., at 69 and Colorado Springs at 90.

Among 179 small cities ranked in the index, Las Cruces placed 55. As with Albuquerque, Las Cruces’ strength was in its high-tech scores. Also ranked were Santa Fe at 153 and Farmington at 163.