Guest Blog: The Top Growing Cities in the U.S.
March 05, 2014

The Great Recession has forever transformed many great American cities. Some lost so many businesses and residents in recent years that the once-thriving metropolises are veritable ghost towns todays. Other cities have grown leaps and bounds as companies and people move there in search of places that offer a lower cost of living and lower cost of doing business, as well as new opportunities and fresh starts.

According to U.S. Census population figures, the following cities and metropolitan areas are America’s fastest-growing regions in our post-recession landscape. Census data for the nation’s 52 metropolitan statistical areas, each with more than 1 million residents, show that these are among the fastest-growing regions in the nation.

Inland Empire, California

The Inland Empire sits directly east of Los Angeles. Although the region consists of San Bernardino County and Riverside County and is technically defined as the “Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area,” it’s much sexier (and shorter) to refer to it as the locals do: the Inland Empire.

According to the Census Bureau, the Inland Empire is the 12th most-populated metropolitan area in the U.S. and the third largest in California when measured by population. The region’s population in 2012 was just shy of 4.4 million people, nearly 33 percent higher than in 2000. And that growth wasn’t solely a result of the heady heyday of the early 2000s; the Inland Empire’s population grew 1.1 percent between 2011 and 2012.

The rapid growth of the Inland Empire, as well as the city of Ontario, is largely due to businesses and residents fleeing Los Angeles County’s high home prices, lease rates, property and sales taxes (not to mention soul-sucking traffic) in search of more affordable housing, lower cost of doing business, and better quality of life.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Affectionately known as “Metrolina” or “Charlotte Metro,” the Charlotte metropolitan area includes the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as seven counties in North Carolina and three counties in South Carolina. The area has a combined estimated population of nearly 2.3 million people in 2012, according to Census data – and that’s what lands Metrolina on the list of fastest-growing U.S. cities. The metro area’s population grew nearly 33 percent since 2000 – including a 1.7 percent bump in growth since 2011.

Much of the Metrolina region’s growth could be a result of its transition and diversification into new industries, including banking, research, and manufacturing.

Orlando, Florida

Well, it may be home to the “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” but one could argue the city of Orlando, Florida, is the new “Happiest Place on Earth”. (There are a whole lot of mixed Disney messages in there.)

The Metro Orlando region is probably best known for – and its economy is largely built on – the area’s tourism industry, which draws in millions of visitors and billions of dollars each year. The area is home to world-famous attractions, such as the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, and all the hospitality industries that build up as a result, including countless hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls.

Las Vegas, Nevada

This one may come as a surprise, especially considering the drumbeat of dire news coming out of Las Vegas after the housing bust of 2007-2008, which left the city reeling as its home values plummeted. In fact, Las Vegas was the city hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis and had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for nearly two years straight.

But Sin City is bouncing back; Las Vegas’ population grew a surprising 1.7 percent since 2011 and has seen a staggering 43 percent rise in population since the 2000 Census. In 2012, Las Vegas had an estimated population of 2 million people.

Austin, Texas

When in Austin, Texas, don’t be surprised if you see bumper stickers and T-shirts emblazoned with the message: “Welcome to Austin. Please don’t move here. I hear Dallas is great!”

Maybe the locals’ sentiments are understandable considering the city, with an estimated population of 1.8 million in 2012, has grown nearly 45 percent since 2000 – and has experienced 3 percent growth in population just since 2011. That growth rate actually makes Austin the fastest-growing city in the nation from 2011 to 2012, so it’s no wonder longtime locals are bit…touchy…about their hometown’s newfound popularity.