April 9, 2004

Ithaca Named Number One

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Ithaca is the number-one emerging city in the U.S., according to Cities Ranked & Rated: More Than 400 Metropolitan Areas Evaluated in the U.S. and Canada by Peter Sander and Bert Sperling. Of note is the book’s description of Ithaca, which opens with “Ithaca is most noted as home to Ivy League Cornell University.”

Cities Ranked & Rated came out this past March 30. It defines an emerging area as one of the 45 cities designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget as a new Metropolitan Statistical Area, most of which are experiencing population growth.

“We knew [the book] was coming out but we didn’t know what our ranking was going to be. We were delighted that we were ranked number one,” said Fred Bonn, director of public relations and membership at the Chamber of Commerce.

Bonn explained how in deciding where to move people are starting to consider where they want to live first and then looking for a job in that area rather than just moving to where a job is offered. “We are benefiting from that paradigm shift,” Bonn said.

Most prominent in Cities Ranked & Rated was Ithaca’s arts and culture ranking which was listed as 6 out of 10. This standing was far above every other emerging area, which all ranked three or below. The book defines arts and culture as a city’s museums, public radio and television stations, libraries, and live theater.

Not surprisingly, Ithaca also stood out as number one in annual snowfall with a total of 107 inches. Second to Ithaca was Fairbanks, Ark. with a mere 67.8 inches. The book did state that one of Ithaca’s cons was its wet climate and states “the Lake Ontario-influenced, humid continental climate produces lots of snow and precipitation — almost one day in two on average year-round.”

Other statistics included Ithaca’s unemployment rate which was one of the lowest at 2.9 percent, behind Harrisonburg, Va.’s 2.3 percent and Ames, Iowa’s 2.6 percent. “The number of quality of life issues that our chamber has worked on are being recognized,” Bonn said.

Cities Ranked & Rated gave Ithaca a seven leisure rating which tied it with the number-two emerging city, Bend, Ore. The book described Ithaca as “attractive, activities are plentiful, and educational attainment is high. Additionally, the location, at the south end of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region, affords access to nearby outdoor recreation, interesting landscapes, and a number of wineries.”

The book also listed Ithaca’s other con as isolation. “We are not isolated; over 60 percent of the population of the U.S. lives within an eight-hour drive of Ithaca,” Bonn said. He did explain that Ithaca has transportation challenges such as not being connected to the Interstate or having a multiple-carrier airport.

Ithaca was second-highest in the percent of the population with four-year college degrees at 20.8 percent. Ranked number one was Ames, Iowa.

Ithaca’s population growth rate was relatively small at 2.5 percent between 1990 and 2002. In reference to this population growth rate, Bonn said, “In our planning and in the counties planning, that trend is expected to continue.”

The only other city to be ranked in New York State was Kingston, at number 27. Syracuse was also listed as a cultural bargain because of its moderate standard of living and high arts and culture score.

When asked how Ithaca’s number-one ranking will affect the area, Bonn said, “In another few months we’ll be able to point to this and say we had an uptake of interest [from potential movers] either on our website or over the phone.”

Archived article by asey Holmes
Sun Staff Writer