Kay HarrisThe Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — What do the cities of Fairbanks, Alaska, Dubuque, Iowa, and Valdosta, Ga., have in common?
They are all listed in the top 10 metro areas with the biggest average annual wage and salary increases in the country.
A study conducted by the University of Toronto’s Martin Property Institute, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics, analyzed wage data to find the most lucrative salary gains for workers from 2010 to 2011.
Quoted in a story on Yahoo! Finance website Wednesday, the report showed that Fairbanks in Alaska had the highest wage increases for workers, with Valdosta rounding out the top 10. The report also demonstrates the importance that universities and military bases play in a community’s economy.
Fairbanks’ average annual wage increase was the highest at $2,700 while Valdosta’s came in 10th at $1,860, according to the rankings.
Average wages in Valdosta, though, lag behind their counterparts and were the lowest in the top 10, at $34,020. Fairbanks’ average annual wage is $53,050.
Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson said several factors contributed to Valdosta’s inclusion on the list of metro communities.
“The success of our Hospital Authority resulting in the growth of the health-care industry and the type of jobs created in this sector is one positive factor. Having a regional hospital, cancer center and heart center are great for health care alone, but the types of jobs they create are solid, stable and with excellent wages. With the successful partnership of SGMC and VSU on the Health Sciences facility and program, this sector is poised for even more growth and the creation of excellent paying jobs in the future.”
Hanson said Wiregrass College’s focus on education and workforce training for skilled jobs also results in higher paying jobs for those graduates.
“As a community, we need to come together and support Wiregrass in their goal of starting a technology and engineering program, because jobs in these sectors pay well and will be in demand in the future.”
For Chamber of Commerce President Myrna Ballard, the news is a reinforcement that many of the Chamber’s programs are working.
“While many other sectors of the economy have actually experienced net declines during the past few years, jobs in information technology, environmental technology, medical services and other knowledge-based businesses continued to increase — great news for our community, since these jobs typically require a college or university degree and have higher salaries.”
Ballard added that Metro Valdosta has a lot of assets that very few smaller metropolitan areas have, including a regional university, a regional medical center, a military base, an Interstate, and a warm climate.
Lowndes County Manager Joe Pritchard said the county welcomes the news and the recognition, but is a bit more cautious in its outlook.
“While this study puts our community on the map for those looking to relocate, it is important to remember that segments of our workforce continue to struggle.”
Other cities in the Top 10 include Bloomington, Ind.; Iowa City, Iowa; Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, Mass./N.H.; Williamsport, Pa.; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; Wenatchee, Wash.; and Champaign-Urbana, Ill.