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National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Kalamazoo Among Top 10 Large Counties

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The latest release of the "Fourth Economy Community Index" lists the nation's top 10 large-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are those ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth. Kalamazoo County is listed among those Top 10 communities.

The "fourth economy" characterizes the most recent phase of our nation's economy, reflecting a combination of the previous three to include agrarian, industrial, and technological. This new index is intended to serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment.

The Fourth Economy Community Index ( or  #FECIndex) categorizes counties based on their Census 2010 population. Micro counties are those less than 25,000. Small counties range from 25,000 to 49,999. Mid-sized counties are 50,000 to 149,999. The large counties are between 150,000 and 499,999.

The FEC Index then considers several county-level measures within five areas: investment, talent, sustainability, place and diversity. According to the FEC, these five areas serve as a foundation for future economic success. Specific indicators include wage and employment growth, education levels, drive times, home values, minority business ownership, agricultural and manufacturing capacity and population density. The measures are then weighted based on the level of influence they have on both internal and external investment decisions.

The top to large-sized communities for 2013 were
* 1, Durham County, N.C.
* 2, Sedgwick County, Kan.
* 3, Guilford County, N.C.
* 4, Linn County, Iowa
* 5, Onondaga County, N.Y.
* 6, Dakota County, Minn.
* 7, Lehigh County,m Pa.
* 8, Polk County, Iowa
* 9, Kalamazoo County
* 10, Hamilton County, Tenn.

"A year ago, our regional leadership came together to identify collaborations for growing our economy," said Ron Kitchens, CEO of Southwest Michigan First, the Kalamazoo area's economic development agency. "We already had a lot of good things in motion but it was our decision to work together towards a common goal that has been the key differentiator. We are proud to be recognized by the Fourth Economy Index and look to keep our momentum moving forward."

Added Rich Overmoyer, CEO of Fourth Economy Consulting, the economic development consultant that created the index in 2001: "There has never been a more important time for economic and community developers to rethink how we measure economic success. As a country, it is critical that we position our communities to take advantage of the long term economic prosperity and impact that both the public and private sectors can have on their respective economies. This index begins to point to the data and assets that help to influence and monitor progress toward that goal.

The Fourth Economy Communities have demonstrated a blend of both rural and urban character, offering their residents diverse living and working options.

"This trend holds true with the large sized counties," said Stephen McKnight, Fourth Economy vice president of community and market assessments. "Another common attribute is a geographic association with institutions of higher education, which are the modern engines of the fourth economy. As a result, these communities can provide the talent and place-based strategies that address housing, recreation and amenities for smaller, high-value businesses to thrive.

Fourth Economy Consulting is a national economic development consulting firm specializing in market analytics, strategic planning, community assessments and organization building. Learn more at

More about Southwest Michigan First at

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