By Sean Wardwell

Killeen Daily Herald

While Killeen slipped in the rankings among the best economically performing cities in the country, it’s still in the top five.

The Milken Institute, a nonpartisan economic think tank, released its annual listings of cities with the best economic performance late last week. The Killeen/Temple metropolitan area is ranked fifth.

“The Milken Institute has tremendous credibility with the investment community,” said John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. “When they say a community or region has its economic act together, it means something is in the right place.”

In 2010, the Killeen/Temple metropolitan area was No. 1 in the rankings. At the time, the report attributed the area’s strength as technology growth directly related to Fort Hood.

Despite the ranking slip, the institute still is high about Killeen’s economic potential.

“Growth slowed throughout 2011, but the metro’s performance over the past five years kept it in the top five,” states the report. “The region placed first in wage and salary growth for 2004–2009 and no lower than fourth in job growth.”

The report also points out that Fort Hood’s expansion helped Killeen weather the recession, but its civilian employment now exceeds its pre-recession peak.

“Our region’s consistent economic performance has been remarkable,” said Crutchfield.

The institute looks at a city’s growth in jobs, wages, salaries and technological output through a five-year period when issuing its rankings, using the same geographic terms and definitions by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

“I feel good about (the ranking),” said Killeen Mayor Timothy Hancock. “I would have rather been ranked No. 1 again, but I realize it’s competitive. Whatever we’ve been doing, we need to maintain it.”