Top 10 Best Small Towns 2013

By | June 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm | No comments | News

Read full report by Jeff Adkins

People across the country are in search of authentic communities with unique atmospheres, colorful characters and a true sense that there is no other place like it. Sprinkled between major highways and busy airports are drive-by or fly-over cities offering a slower, and some say richer, slice of life.

To find the Top 10 Best Small Towns in America for 2013 we narrowed down our search to micropolitan areas. We steered clear of big-city suburbs and places considered part of a larger metropolitan region, which we included in the Top 10 Small Towns 2012 list. Next, we examined populations and economic growth rates to see which of these towns were attracting new residents and businesses. Then we looked at how they scored on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Amenities Scale. Finally, we talked to people who live in these towns, assessed the amenities they offer, and compared employment rates, cost of living and other economic factors. Other sources included the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor and town representatives.

“The best small towns all have one thing in common: something unique that sets them apart from other towns,” says Mitch Moody, president of Growing Your Town, an economic development consulting company that works with small to mid-size cities. “A distinctive identity is absolutely vital if a town is to stand out among all the other small towns vying for attention from businesses and the general public,” he says.

We also considered an area’s intangible factors: a less hurried atmosphere, tight community bonds, good schools, environmentally friendly planning, an emphasis on family values and historic preservation.

Whether you’re looking for a place to settle down, or an authentic spot to visit, check out our picks for the best small towns in the country.

#1 Dickinson, ND

Located near the rugged, rocky badlands of North Dakota, the town of Dickinson is experiencing a surge in new residents, businesses and amenities. Dickinson’s population grew by nearly 50 percent over the past three years, according to city officials. A proliferation of jobs in the energy development sector, coupled with gains in manufacturing, tourism and agriculture continue to attract people. Planners estimate the Dickinson area will see a 48 percent increase in new homes by 2020.

What keeps new residents in Dickinson is the growing array of amenities, good schools and recreational opportunities. Natural attractions like the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Little Missouri National Grasslands and Patterson Lake give residents chances to hike, camp, fish and experience the wide-open beauty of western North Dakota. Among the many improvement projects planned for Dickinson are the creation of a new public safety center for the police and fire departments, a new hospital, new waste reclamation facility, and a long list of street, water and sewer upgrades.

Sports teams for Dickinson State University, Dickinson High School and Trinity High School play games at the Biesiot Activities Center, a 5,500-square-foot facility with indoor and outdoor playing surfaces. The city maintains more than 20 parks on 1,538 acres that include playgrounds, athletic fields, picnic areas and walking trails.

Downtown Dickinson contains many historic buildings, which house shops, restaurants and offices. More shops, including well-known chain stores, can be found at Prairie Hills Mall. Residents gather to celebrate the community during several annual events, including Roughrider Days Fair and Expo, the Northern Plains Ethnic Festival, rodeos and concerts.

  • Growth rate (2010-12): 50%
  • Size: 10 square miles
  • 2013 Median home price: $266,245
  • Average commute: 13 minutes
  • Population: 18,216
  • Med. Age: 35
  • Med. Household Income: $50,832
  • Med. Home Price: $226,341
  • Average Work Commute: 9 MINUTES

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