America's Fastest-Recovering Cities
Francesca Levy, 11.19.09, 04:00 PM EST
Though Omaha, Neb., seems second-rate to some, Warren Buffett may have been on to something when he chose it for the headquarters of his massive holding company, Berkshire Hathaway. According to our research, the city has hit upon a formula to weather the economic downturn better than any other in the country.
While no region has escaped the recession, in Omaha, three Texas metros, a handful of Northeastern manufacturing bases and select southern cities, diversified industry and relatively stable housing fundamentals have provided local residents with comparatively secure standards of living.
Omaha has had a healthy 1.3% gross metropolitan product (GMP) growth in the past year, and a low foreclosure rate (only one in every 3,246 housing units is in foreclosure), but it sails to the top spot on our list because of its unemployment rate: At 5%, the lowest of the metros we surveyed. Omaha's economy is less dependent on manufacturing than other Midwestern cities, and is boosted by a strong agriculture sector and growing biofuels industry. And while the city has a big stake in the financial industry--a factor that nearly spelled ruin for metros like New York--it doesn't specialize in the types of institutions that took big risks and chased exotic financial structures. Instead, it's home to roughly 30 insurance companies and regional banks like Mutual of Omaha.