Local leaders say Amarillo's national ranking no surprise - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Local leaders say Amarillo's national ranking no surprise

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AMARILLO - For the first time ever, Amarillo made the Milkin Institute's list of Best-Performing Small Cities.
 
"People are employed and people are spending money," said Amarillo Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Molberg.
 
Milkin has ranked U.S. Metropolitan areas by how well they sustain jobs and grow their economy since 2003.The Texas cities of Odessa, Longview, Midland, Tyler and San Angelo also made the top 20.

Amarillo ranked 17th out of 179 other economies of similar size and population. The unemployment rate here is lower than the rest of the state and country at 4.2 percent. The cost of living is low, and retail sales are up.

"It's important for the citizens of Amarillo to spend their money local, not go online and purchase online, but rather spend with their friends and neighbors here in our city," Molberg said. "Because that comes back and helps pay sales tax dollars which pays for the infrastructure of our city."

Amarillo's diversified industry, and big employers such as Bell Helicopter and Pantex, are factors that contribute to the steady employment levels.
    
Molberg says the medical facilities in Amarillo are also a big factor, bringing in people from 26 surrounding counties.

"They come to Amarillo and they stay. They stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants, and shop in our stores," Molberg said.

With that national recognition and economic upturn, Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole says the city can expect accelerated growth.

"There's so much growth in the city we have to get ahead of that," Harpole said. "It's an important challenge for the citizens and the city to do that. Lots of things that have to be supplied to build those houses and supply the jobs to budding industry."

Harpole says the population will likely grow by 35,000 people in this decade, and his prediction doesn't include the surrounding towns that help feed Amarillo's booming economy.

"This part of the country going to grow obviously and I think Amarillo is going to lead that in many ways," Harpole said.
   
That growth will translate to more sales and property taxes, something local leaders say makes for a healthy, thriving economy.