CNN Money Magazine released its “Top 100 Best Places to Live” across the country earlier this month. Maple Grove reached within the top 25 places to live and came in at No. 22.
Maple Grove City Administrator Al Madsen said reach this designation was quite an accomplishment for the city, which was notified Aug. 17. “We are happy that they picked us,” he added. “This is a very positive reflection on Maple Grove. We feel we have a lot to offer our residents and people thinking about living here. We must be doing something right.”
He said the process was very extensive, where CNN watches communities around the nation, communities on the go, “and cities that have a strong educational system, a low crime rate, stable government.”
According to the CNNmoney website: “If you like to shop, Maple Grove is the city for you. It’s home to the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes, an upscale mall with 68 stores and restaurants, as well as several other major retail centers. That, plus top-notch hospitals and active community organizations, has made Maple Grove the cultural and retail heart of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. While there are plenty of jobs in town — medical research firm Boston Scientific alone employs about 2,500 people — downtown Minneapolis is just a 20-minute car ride away. – L.M.”
The designation of “Top Best Places to Live” is decided through an extensive process in which CNN uses a data service company to crunch statistic numbers to “zero in on America’s best small cities for families.”
Towns within the United States with populations between 50,000 and 300,000 are started out with.
Madsen said Maple Grove was contacted and asked for information. “They contacted our community, and told us that based on their preliminary review, we could be considered,” he added. “It is a long process. We started this at least six months ago.”
Cities are screened out based on median family income within a state, race and those with poor education and crime scores. Also cities that are considered retirement communities or ones with major job losses are excluded.
The remaining cities are ranked based on job growth, home affordability, safety, school quality, health care, arts and leisure, diversity and ease-of-living criteria. “With our parks, lakes, trail system and the Town Green, those were big pluses for us,” Madsen said.
Madsen added those cities still in the running are asked to provide more information. This more in depth data includes the city’s economy, including fiscal strength (Maple Grove has a AAA bond rating), along with jobs, housing, health care (i.e. the Maple Grove Hospital) and happiness. “They also look at citizen involvement,” he added. “For example, National Night Out was a prime example.”
Cities are then visited to interview residents, look at traffic, parks and gathering places. Madsen said the city provided CNN with the 2008 citizen’s survey copy, “which showed our resident’s being overwhelming supportive of Maple Grove.”
A winner is then selected based on the best data of the remaining cities.
Some of the stats for Maple Grove included:
• The median family annual income is $112,023. The Best Places average is $96,825.
• The city’s job growth rate is at 22.02 percent from 2000 to 2011. The Best Places average is 25.01 percent during the same time period.
• The median home price in the city is $214,700. The Best Places average is $269,768.
• The average property taxes were $4,511 in 2011 in Maple Grove compared to $6,517 in the Best Places average.
Madsen said the process was long. “Carol Morris, my assistant certainly played a big role, gathering information,” he added. “They ask for a lot of information and ask detailed questions, but it covered all aspects of the city.”
Also of note, four other Minnesota cities were among the top 25 of the “Top 100 Best Places to Live.” Eden Prairie came in at No. 3, Woodbury at No. 11, Eagan at No. 14 and Lakeville was at No. 19.
Madsen said, “When you have five metro area cities from Minnesota in the top 25, it speaks very well for the state. I don’t know if that’s happened with CNNmoney before. I want to congratulate my fellow cities that were selected.”
Mayor Mark Steffenson stated, “Maple Grove is very proud to be included in the Top 25 of the Best 100 places in America. We are in good company with our fellow Minnesota cities included in the ranking and a reflection of the quality of life throughout the state. This recognition accurately reflects that Maple Grove is a wonderful place to live, and we look forward to moving up the list.”
The city will be receiving a plaque, which will be presented to the city during an upcoming City Council meeting. “This is a nice honor for the city,” Madsen said. “Our residents should be very pleased with us being considered one of the best places to live in America. And we have wonderful employees here.”