Paducah's micropolitan statistical area remains the highest-ranked in Kentucky, and is in the top 14 percent of the 551 micropolitans nationwide, according to a Florida company which analyzes local and state economies.
The 2020 Economic Strength Rankings, compiled annually by Policom Corp., list Paducah's micropolitan area 76th nationally. Paducah has been the commonwealth's top micropolitan for 10 consecutive years, with an average ranking of 38th during that period.
Micropolitan statistical areas are defined as having an urbanized area (city) with a population of at least 10,000, but fewer than 50,000. Metropolitan areas, by contrast, have at least one urbanized area with a population of at least 50,000.
Paducah's micropolitan includes McCracken, Ballard and Livingston counties in Kentucky, and Massac County in Illinois.
According to William Fruth, Policom's president, the company ranks the nation's 383 metropolitan areas and 551 micropolitan areas for "economic strength," which he describes as the long-term tendency for an area to consistently grow in both size and quality.
The rankings measure 23 economic factors over a period of several years, such as worker earnings, per capita personal income, construction jobs, retail wages per capita and medical assistance to the poor.
Kentucky's top 10 micropolitans for 2020 are: Paducah, 76; Madisonville, 143; Bardstown, 153; Frankfort, 187; Richmond/Berea, 215; Somerset, 318; London, 346; Maysville, 366; Danville, 411; and Murray, 412.
According to Bruce Wilcox, president/CEO of Greater Paducah Economic Development, the rankings from an outside source like Policom help "lend credibility and validity to our community. We'll try to utilize it (ranking) the best way we can."
The top 10 micropolitans nationally, in order, are: Bozeman, Montana; Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts; Heber, Utah; Lewisburg, Pennslyvania; Hood River, Oregon; Breckenridge, Colorado; Wooster, Ohio; Oxford, Mississippi; Astoria, Oregon; and Kalispell, Montana.
According to Fruth, the formulas used to determine economic strength measure how the economy has behaved, not what has caused it to perform. A local economy is defined by where people live and work, earn and spend.
The economic strength rankings can help communities better understand how their economy works and what needs to be done to improve it, Fruth said.