Twin Cities’ Embarrassment of Riches

Money Magazine’s most recent “America’s Best Places to Live” issue is out, and Minnesota (again) is prominently represented.

No fewer than five Minnesota cities made Money’s “Top 20,” including Eden Prairie, the grand prize winner.

Two more cities — Chanhassan and Maple Grove — could have easily been added as well, giving Minnesota fully one-third of the “Top 20” spots.

Alternative Names: ‘Best Suburbs’; ‘Best Place to Raise Kids’

Or should I say, “the Twin Cities?”

As you parse the list of 100 cities, what jumps out is that the majority of choices are really suburbs.

And not just any suburbs, but suburbs (per Money’s criteria) that: have 50,000 to 300,000 people; whose residents make median incomes (more or less); offer high quality public education; have newer housing stock; and provide plenty of kid-friendly open space.

All good things, to be sure, but criteria that residents of, say, Minnetonka or Edina — not to mention Palo Alto, Scarsdale or Highland Park, IL — might take issue with.

Parsing the List

To return to the list, here is Money’s current “Top Ten”:

1. Eden Prairie, MN
2. Columbia/Ellicott City, MD
3. Newton, MA
4. Bellevue, WA
5. McKinney, TX
6. Fort Collins, CO
7. Overland Park, KS
8. Fishers, IN
9. Ames, IA
10. Rogers, AR

Now here’s the Money list sorted by metro area and how many of its suburbs made the list (and how highly they placed):

1. Twin Cities — 5 total (#1, #11, #13, #15, #20)
2. Washington, D.C. — 5 total (#2, #25, #30, #31, #47)
3. Kansas City — 4 total (#7, #17, #27, #49)
4. New York — 10 total (#34, #41, #53, #57, #73, #78, #82, #88, #89, #90)
5. Boston — 5 total (#3, #28, #39, #52, #94)
6. Chicago — 4 total (#43, #54 #56 #59)
7. Denver — 3 total (#12, #19, #58)
8. Dallas — 3 total (#5, #16, #24)
9. Salt Lake City — 3 total (#18, #45, #61)
10. Miami — 3 total (#44, #48, #72)

Apples and Oranges

Co-mingled on the Money list of “metro” cities (read, suburbs) are genuinely autonomous, small cities.

So, in the Midwest, along with Plymouth (#11) and Eagan (#15), you also find Ames, Iowa (#9); Eau Claire, WI (#69); and Bismarck, ND (#74).

It’s hard to imagine many families seriously comparing Plymouth and Eau Claire in the same breath.

The “Places Rated” Franchise

Perhaps the best way to understand Money’s “Best Places” list is as a money-making, journalistic “franchise.”

As such franchises go, it’s certainly not as lucrative as U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings (and now, graduate schools).

And it will never be as glitzy as, say, People’s 100 Most Beautiful People.

But it’s still a good one, because it’s inherently subjective, lends itself to so many permutations (brand extensions?), and can be constantly updated.

The surest sign that the rankings have taken hold is that the “contestants” start to tout their high scores — and begin lobbying to preserve/increase them (as colleges now routinely do with U.S. News & World Report).

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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