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Gaithersburg named among fastest growing cities in the nation

Thursday - 5/22/2014, 11:20pm  ET

GAITHERSBURG, Md. - Just up Interstate 270 from the nation's capital is one of the country's fastest-growing cities.

Based on 2013 numbers, the U.S. Census Bureau says Gaithersburg, Maryland, is one of only two cities along the East Coast to make its list of the 15 fastest-growing towns with more than 50,000 residents.

According to the Census, Gaithersburg jumped 4.4 percent to 65,690 residents in 2013.

Most of the other fast-growing cities are in Texas. Gaithersburg ranks at No. 8. The largest city on the list was Gilbert, Ariz., with a population of 229,972.

City officials credit Gaithersburg's proximity to the nation's capital and its science-based economy, which has lured workers from California and New England.

Tom Lonergan, the city's economic development director, calls Gaithersburg a major employment center.

"Tens of thousands of jobs are here in the city and tens of thousands of people come to work here [in] the city. So we're not just a bedroom community," Lonergan says.

Big employers include the biotech company MedImmune, which employs close to 2,500 people. Also, Sodexo, a global services firm, which recently renewed its lease for a high-rise near RIO Washingtonian Center, employs close to 500 people.

Then you can add the government-run National Institute of Standards and Technology, which employs between 4,000 and 5,000 people.

Giving incentives to small businesses has also helped propel the city forward, says Mayor Sidney Katz. He says helping them grow encourages owners to "stay with us so that we can all enjoy their successes together."

The city also has one of the lowest tax rates in Maryland. And with no debt, the city is able to attract businesses to set up shop, says City Manager Tom Tomasello.

"We attract good companies," he said. "What's not to like about coming to Gaithersburg?"

According to the Census, more than half of residents older than 25 hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Gaithersburg residents also earn more. The median income is $81,178, roughly $8,000 more than the median income in Maryland.

"We have grown in a controlled fashion, but in an innovative fashion," Tomasello says.

"Gaithersburg is a well-educated, highly diverse community, which is a great resource for companies deciding where to locate and grow their business," said Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce. "Gaithersburg is known as a great place to do business," she said.

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