Tacoma rated in the top 10 of U.S. cities for building a business or career

Long frustrated by standing in the shadow of booming Seattle, the city of Tacoma has just vaulted into the upper rankings of Forbes’ annual list of the nation’s top 200 big cities for business and careers.

True, Seattle took the top spot for the first time this year, boosted by the astronomical growth of Amazon. But Tacoma rated 10th, above such high-profile spots as Atlanta, Nashville, San Francisco and Minneapolis, because of its comparatively lower costs and high quality of life.

"We were thrilled to see this," said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, who was meeting with her business advisory council just as the news came to light. "I think it's because we're close to the eco-center, but we are still affordable."

Home prices in Tacoma – at a median of $344,000 – are far less than those in Seattle, where the cost of living is 37 percent higher than the national average.

Woodards pointed out that Tacoma, where government and health care provide the bulk of jobs, has a growing cybersecurity sector, an international port and numerous colleges. "So we can turn out the kinds of workers these businesses need," she said.

For two decades, Forbes has measured cities against one another through a system of 14 metrics, including projected economic growth, affordability and the number of residents who hold college degrees. The 200 metro areas highlighted on the magazine’s list range in size from 14.5 million people (New York) to 269,000 (Norwich, Conn.).

Washington actually has three cities that cracked the top 20, with Olympia placing 16th.

Another two metro areas – Bellingham and Bremerton – ranked 15th and 22nd for high-growth business climates among small cities.

Nationally, other places stood out for being bright spots in particular areas – like Austin, Tex., which has the highest rate of college-educated millennials, and Orlando, Fla. with the best projected job growth through 2020.

But North Carolina, where labor costs are 14 percent below the national average, has been rated second best for business development three years running. (By comparison, Seattle’s labor costs are 10 percent above the U.S. average.)

At the bottom: Atlantic City, New Jersey, has been last-place for six straight years – behind Bakersfield, California and Flint, Michigan.