WINCHESTER — Out of 200 localities on the Forbes 2018 list of Best Small Places for Business and Careers in the United States, the Winchester-Frederick County area ranks 11th, up two spots from 13th in 2017.
The No. 1 ranking went to Sioux Falls, S.D., for the second year in a row.
Patrick Barker, executive director for the Frederick County Economic Development Authority, said the improved ranking is confirmation of the region’s economic success over the past five to 10 years.
“It’s pretty phenomenal,” Barker said.
Some factors he thinks contributed to the ranking include feedback that the area has a good supply of labor and that the labor force is reliable.
The area also had a 3 percent jobless rate in 2017, according to Forbes. The national unemployment rate that year was 4.1 percent.
Barker said he expects the local economy and the area’s Forbes ranking to continue improving as major economic projects develop, including construction of the FBI’s $109 million Central Records Complex off John Mosby Highway (U.S. 50) in Frederick County. The facility, which is currently being built, is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2020 and will employ as many as 446 people.
On June 17, e-commerce giant Amazon opened a $56.5 million, million-square-foot distribution center off Martinsburg Pike (U.S. 11) in Frederick County. The facility is expected to have about 1,000 employees.
According to Forbes, the Winchester-Frederick area also ranks 14th in Cost of Doing Business, 37th in Job Growth and 92nd in Education.
Winchester-Frederick was the highest-ranking small metro area in Virginia, followed by Charlottesville at 13th. The other Virginia metro areas included in this year’s ranking were Harrisonburg (35th), Lynchburg (70th), Staunton (79th) and Blacksburg at (85th).
The Forbes ranking considered 14 metrics including jobs, incomes and economic growth, business and living costs, as well as education levels.
In 2017, the Winchester-Frederick area had a job growth of 2.1 percent, with a population of 138,100 people. Forbes said it has a projected annual job growth of 1.8 percent.
Of those living in the area, 86.8 percent have a high school degree, 25.4 percent have a college degree and 10 percent have graduate degrees.