What do Salt Lake City; Memphis, Tenn.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; and Buffalo, N.Y., have in common?
No, they're not sister cities . . . at least not yet. But they are all "real comers among the midsize U.S. cities," according to the latest (Oct. 23) issue of Fortune magazine.The sidebar article on the "real comers" runs with a cover story on what Fortune deems to be the best cities for business in America. In order the top 10 are: Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York, The Bay Area, Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul.)
Even though Salt Lake didn't make that exalted list, it leads off the magazine's article on the "ones to watch" with these words:
" `This is the place,' declared Brigham Young as he gazed at the spectacular site of Salt Lake City in the 1840s. In the 1990s increasing numbers of Fortune 500 companies may make the same choice about Salt Lake, Memphis and other attractive midsize cities across the nation."
Fortune says the "old magnets" for industry - deepwater harbors, railroads, proximity to natural resources - are no longer the dominant factors they once were.
"What are becoming more significant," says Fortune, "are such city characteristics as being a telecommunications center, an air transport hub, and having a well-educated work force." Large companies seeking to move operations or start up new ones are looking at dozens of alternatives to the traditional big cities, says Fortune.
Heading Fortune's list of the "real comers" are:
-Salt Lake City. Its low cost of living and educated labor force, says Fortune, make the city a strong Western alternative to bigger Denver and Phoenix. Utah ranks first nationally in percentage of high school graduates qualified to take the Advanced Placement college exams. Salt Lake has become an important telecommunications center: Eastern and Delta airlines, Fidelity Investments, Sears, and J.C. Penney have all set up telephone-based service operations.
Holiday Inns located a 450-person reservations center in Salt Lake after considering every Western city with a population over 400,000. Says reservations chief Robert Salmon, "People are hungry to work here and they like the idea of working for a major corporation. I get 15 to 20 walk-ins per day."
-Memphis is listed second and is described by Fortune as one of the big success stories of the South. Fortune says it is likely to join Atlanta as a major distribution center. Kraft Foods, Sara Lee and Williams-Sonoma are newcomers, and International Paper chose Memphis over Atlanta and Dallas as the base for its top management.
-Indianapolis was once a typical Midwest manufacturing town dominated by a few larger companies such as Eli Lilly, Western Electric and RCA, says Fortune. Today it is home to dozens of diversified service businesses, and telecommunications is becoming increasingly important. American Express and Charles Schwab are both opening telephone centers this year. Also appealing are the city's modest taxes and short commutes.
-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre are two cities 20 miles apart that Fortune says have become attractive to companies with large back offices currently based in New York, Philadelphia and Washington. Northeastern Pennsylvania, where Scranton/
Wilkes-Barre are located, has inexpensive housing and one of the nation's lowest crime rates. With a 6 percent-plus unemployment rate, high-quality workers are easily recruited. Large employers include Prudential Asset Management, J.C. Penney and Nabisco.
-Buffalo, long a "rust belt relic," is a "sleeper," says Fortune. While not high on most executive relocation lists right now, the city is ripe for resurgence. There's a strong work ethic, and the city benefits from proximity to Canada in that dozens of Canadian companies have set up Buffalo offices.