St. Joseph ranked in top 25 of best cities to live

ST. JOSEPH — Have you ever heard of Williston, N.D, Lititz, Pa., or Carroll, Iowa?

That’s okay, they’ve probably never heard of St. Joseph, Mich., either. But these communities, and 46 others, now have something in common.

St. Joseph has been ranked 23rd of “America’s Best 50 Cities to Live,” according to the 24/7 Wall St. website, which reports on financial and economic development news. It is one of two Michigan towns named, along with Traverse City, which came in a distant 48th.

The write-up on St. Joseph is accompanied by a photo of – hold your breath – the lighthouses and North Pier. But it is other factors that put it in the top tier.

“St. Joseph is a small city of just over 8,000 in southwestern Michigan along the shore of Lake Michigan. Area residents have access to a far greater than typical concentration of bars, restaurants, recreation centers, and museums,” the website informs readers.

The site lists St. Joseph’s population at 8,301, with a five-year population change of minus-0.7 percent. The city has a median income of $55,975, according to the website.

“Just 2.6 percent of the city’s labor force is out of a job, well below the 4.1 percent national unemployment rate,” the site states. “For all it has to offer, St. Joseph is also affordable. The typical home in the city is worth about three times the median income. Nationwide, the median home value is 3.4 times greater than the annual median household income.”

To compile its list, 24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of 25 measures that fall into one of four categories: affordability, economy, quality of life, and community.

“The ratio of the median home value to the median income was given full weight. More affordable cities were ranked higher,” the authors explain. “In the economy category, the unemployment rate was also given a full weight.”

In the quality of life category, the researchers looked at the poverty rate, distance from a grocery store and the proximity of a hospital, and the presence of Spectrum Health Lakeland no doubt helped St. Joseph.

Measures in the community category included time to travel to work, and the violent crime and property crime rates, which the site noted are low.

Cities with fewer than 8,000 were not considered. The city with the largest population on the list was Rochester, Minn., with 112,683 residents, which was ranked at 22. Many of those selected were smaller communities close to central cities. St. Joseph was bracketed by no. 24 Carroll, Iowa, listed as “one of the least expensive parts of the country.”

Number one was West University Place, Texas, a wealthy suburb of Houston, with a median household income of over $243,000 a year, over four times the national median. Second was Beverly Hills, Cal., land of “swimming pools and movie stars.”

St. Joseph Mayor Mike Garey was pleased about the recognition, calling it “a great honor for our residents, business, city employees and elected officials. The credit belongs to all of the entities, families and individuals that make St. Joseph a great place to live.”

Such rankings help St. Joseph sell itself to potential residents and employers, he added.

“Our city cannot use large tax breaks to entice developers and business to either move here or expand current properties,” Garey said, “but, as James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, ‘Build it and they will Come.’”

Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak