Ranking America’s most future-ready cities

San Jose, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Boston and Austin are America’s most future-ready cities—but each arrived on top with a different balance of strengths.

Those were the findings from the Dell Future Ready Economies Model based on insights and criteria developed at the 2015 Strategic Innovation Summit: Enabling Economies for the Future, hosted by Harvard University and sponsored by Dell.

The model is meant as a tool for cities to gauge their preparation for future growth.

The summit identified three primary characteristics of Future Ready Economies: the ability to attract people who are engaged in and open to lifelong learning that drives innovation; businesses that thrive in collaborative environments; and infrastructure that provides platforms for people to engage, collaborate, learn and innovate.

Dell commissioned IHS Economics to find proxy indicators that define those characteristics. The resulting index is a model intended to help decision makers understand what makes certain cities more prepared for future growth.

“We’re very confident these cities will grow faster in the next five to ten years than most other cities,” said James Diffley, IHS Economics Group Managing Director for U.S. Regional Services.

The rankings revealed no definitive formula for achieving future readiness, though education figured prominently. The top four cities overall were also the top four of cities with the highest percentages of undergraduate and graduate school degrees.

San Jose ranked highly in labor force participation, productivity and wages and productivity growth. San Francisco topped the chart in human capital as well as innovation and investment. But both lagged behind other top cities in infrastructure.

Washington, D.C., drew strong rankings in human capital, to offset a relatively weak commerce ranking.

Austin outranked Boston in commerce and infrastructure, but Boston’s human capital grades—particularly in learning—boosted it to the fourth overall spot.

Portland, OR, rode the strength of its infrastructure into the top ten, while Dallas/Fort Worth made it primarily due to its commerce scores.

All but six of the 25 most future-ready cities have open data initiatives. Five of the top ten cities were among the six highest concentrations of venture capital. And four were in the top ten cities for affordable energy.

The index revealed that future readiness is not dependent on geography or being “better” than other economies, but rather relies on finding the strengths in a given economy and capitalizing on them.

“For instance, Louisville was impressive. They seem to be set up to take advantage of natural advantages they have,” Diffley said. “Is Louisville going to do better than San Jose? No, but I think Louisville will get the best out of their potential.”

Dell and IHS intend to release an index for international rankings in the next few months.

Top 25 Future Ready Economies:

  1. San Jose, CA
  2. San Francisco, CA
  3. Washington, DC
  4. Boston, MA
  5. Austin, TX
  6. Raleigh, NC
  7. Seattle, WA
  8. Denver, CO
  9. Portland, OR
  10. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  11. New York, NY
  12. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
  13. Houston, TX
  14. Atlanta, GA
  15. Charlotte, NC
  16. San Diego, CA
  17. Chicago, IL
  18. Louisville, KY
  19. Salt Lake City, UT
  20. Des Moines, IA
  21. Los Angeles, CA
  22. Pittsburgh, PA
  23. Kansas City, MO
  24. Columbus, OH
  25. Philadelphia, PA

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