Today we announced our list of Best Places for a Fresh Start. I’m pleased with the criteria we came up with to rank the cities, particularly the angle on volunteerism — this was one of four criteria, the others included housing affordability, economic growth prospects and our own data of where people are moving to.
I’m a pretty staunch believer that you can tell a lot about a community by how much it volunteers to help out others. Using that list helped boost a lot of cities that might not have made the list otherwise, like Columbus, Ohio and Minneapolis.
Now, I don’t expect anyone to read this list and say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna move to XXXX for a fresh start!’ Instead, I hope it’s a springboard by which people think about the things in their life that matter to them, and how they can apply that to where they spend their lives.
Then you can go about drawing up your own list of things that matter to you, and formulate your own ‘dream’ cities.
Here’s our top 20 cities:
|City||Popularity||Job Growth||Home Affordability||Volunteerism Rate||FINAL RANK|
|Washington DC, Balt||4||13||30||19||66|
|Oklahoma City, OK||36||14||12||11||73|
‘Popularity’: We mined our own data to see where people wanted to move. We took that as an indication that these communities are seeing, or will see, an steady influx of newcomers. These newcomers bring with them new ideas, skills and outlooks that can help support the economy and that city’s sense of community. This type of ‘churn’ is vital.
We looked at the per-capita number of quotes for moving services requested to particular communities in 2008 and year-to-date 2009.
Economic prospects: We used Forbes.com’s  list of the Best Places for Businesses and Careers to help determine the areas with the brightest job growth prospects over the next three years. This list was published in March 2009.
Housing you can afford: We used figures from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index . The report looks at the country’s largest metropolitan areas and the percentage of homes sold in the latest quarter that are considered affordable by the median average family.
An ‘Active’ Community: I believe people will be moving for different reasons in the future than they are now, and strength of community will be one of those factors. A strong component of a strong community is volunteerism — how active people are in helping out others in their community.
We used volunteer data from the Corporation of National Community and Service , an independent federal agency whose board of directors and CEO are appointed by the president.
Because of insufficient data on some cities, we were unable to rank them. The only city this might have affected reaching the top 20 was Nashville, for which we didn’t have data for housing.
Would love to hear more from you about the list!
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