July 12, 2010 / 6:29 PM / 9 years ago

Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is best small city: survey

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was named the best small city in the United States in a new poll because of its low unemployment, abundance of lakes and safe streets.

The family-friendly city also boasts job growth of 12.6 percent and 125 miles of running and biking trails, according to Money magazine, which ranked 100 small cities with populations of 50,000 to 300,000 in terms of housing, affordability, safety and economic strength.

Columbia/Ellicott City, Maryland, came second due to the 8,000 jobs provided by the nearby National Security Agency and the Fort Meade Army base, plus highly rated schools. Thousands more jobs are expected in the next year, Money said.

“Affordable homes, booming economy, education are the things,” said Beth Fenner, editor of the survey.

She added that that the poll showed a slew of “Midwestern towns where you can get a ton for your money, the schools are good, there’s low unemployment. You should really think about checking these places out.”

Newton in Massachusetts, Bellevue, Washington and McKinney, Texas rounded out the top five small cities.

The findings are based on information from data services firm Onboard Informatics.

In the last survey in 2008, Columbia/Ellicott City, Maryland, ranked No. 8 while Eden Prairie missed the top 10 altogether.

Money magazine tweaked its survey to highlight families’ biggest fears or priorities, which change along with the U.S. economy. This year, economic stability and job growth was weighted more highly than in years past, while affordable housing stock was a lesser priority.

Ames, Iowa, came in at No. 9, pulled up by its jobs growth rate of 15.8 percent.

“You can’t swing a cat without hitting a job in Ames, Iowa,” said Fenner.

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, came in last in the list. The city is known for its miles of beach and moderate climate, but an influx of cheaper imported seafood from Asia has hurt the city’s shrimping industry, the magazine said.

Appleton in Wisconsin, Grand Forks in North Dakota, Beaverton in Oregon, and Idaho Falls, Idaho also scored at the bottom of the list because of lower family incomes and fewer colleges and professional schools.

Still, ranking in the top 100 of an original pool of 746 small cities is a feat, said Fenner.

“If you make the 100 list, it’s an accomplishment,” she said. “A lot of towns are suffering but these are not among them.”

The full list of cities can be found here

Reporting by Chelsea Emery; editing by Patricia Reaney

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