Between the debt crisis in the Eurozone, the sluggish U.S. recovery, and the after effects of the Japanese earthquake, 2011 was a tough year for many of the traditionally robust regions that drive national economies.

But not all. The Metropolitan Policy Program’s new Global MetroMonitor, a study of economic growth in the world’s 200 largest metropolitan economies, reveals that some metro areas grew quite rapidly last year. They were almost all, however, located in developing regions of Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, the expanding middle class in these places does represent an opportunity to U.S. exporters if they can seize it.

The strongest performing U.S. metro area? Houston, Tex.