Cleveland Daily Banner news staff ranked the story No. 5 in its Top 10 stories of the year listing.
Each year the list ranks 179 small U.S. metropolitan areas. In 2012, Cleveland was placed at 119.
“The team we have between city government, county government and the Chamber of Commerce works together for a common goal, and that’s to make our city a better place to live,” Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said.
Rowland attributed the favorable ranking to low crime, strong local partnerships, completion of the Cleveland Regional Jetport and an overall high quality of life. a
“I think in the last year to two years, we’ve been blessed in our community as far as economics,” Rowland said.
However, he also pointed out that people’s ability and willingness to give is “a sign of recovery and good economic times.”
The Milken Institute also ranked the city of Cleveland fourth in value for one year of job growth. This category measures job growth in the metropolitan area versus the national average for 2011-12. Cleveland was ranked 18th for five-year growth.
Rowland said the community has seen industrial growth over the past five years. Industrial investments during this time totaled $2.6 billion. This created 1,600 new jobs and retained thousands more.
“Our job growth came from such companies as Wacker, Whirlpool, Amazon, Mars Chocolate, Merck, Procter & Gamble Duracell, Coca-Cola, Flowers Bakery, Renfro Industries and Star Plex, to name only a few,” Rowland said.
Rowland said Cleveland saw the largest increase for any area in Tennessee tourism revenue last year. Cleveland saw $122 million in tourism revenue.
Companies taking up shop in formerly vacant storefronts downtown have also helped the Cleveland economy, Rowland said.
According to Milken’s website, the job growth and strength of the local economy are used as key indicators for the rankings. Sustaining jobs, average salaries and technology growth are also considered.
Unemployment in Bradley County reached a new low this year as retailers and private industries hired additional employees.
“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Cleveland/Bradley County as fourth in the nation in its 2013 best cities for job growth listing,” Rowland said.
November saw Bradley County record its lowest unemployment rate in five years, according to published reports. Throughout the year, the county claimed the title of “lowest unemployment rate in Southeast Tennessee” multiple times.
Employers expanded in 2013, leading to the creation and retention of local jobs. Infrastructure creating access to a joint city and county industrial park and other industrial sites also saw progress this year through work on local interstate connectors.
“The South LIC will go into a commercial and industrial development of several hundred acres,” Rowland said. “When the LIC North is completed it will strictly open up the neighborhoods to the north and make it easier for those folks to get out onto the interstate.”
Renovations to Exit 20 have also begun and will continue through 2015. The renovations will change the traffic flow patterns to correct years of congestion and issues at the site.