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GF joins Fargo, Bismarck on Top 100 list

Grand Forks cracked Money Magazine's Top 100 Best Places to Live this year, squeezing in at No. 97. It joined Bismarck, at 74, and Fargo, at 86, as the only cities in the region to make the list. This year's Best City, according to Money Magazine...

Grand Forks cracked Money Magazine's Top 100 Best Places to Live this year, squeezing in at No. 97.

It joined Bismarck, at 74, and Fargo, at 86, as the only cities in the region to make the list.

This year's Best City, according to Money Magazine, is Eden Prairie, Minn., home of the Minnesota Vikings.

It's the first time that Grand Forks has made the Top 100 list under the current criteria.

In 2008, Fargo ranked 88th, while Bismarck ranked 97th.


In 2006, Fargo was 69th and Bismarck was 77th.

In the odd-number years, the magazine ranks small towns, those with populations of 8,500 to 50,000.

West Fargo, with a population of 23,100, made the small-town list in 2009, weighing in at 81.

This year, CNNMoney.com ranked cities with populations of 50,000 to 300,000.

It weighed factors such as:

- Financial, including purchasing power, which is a formula using median family income using the Cost of Living Index for 2009, as well as auto insurance rates.

- Housing, including median home sale price.

- Education, measuring local school district's math and reading test scores compared with the state average.


- Quality of life, including air-quality index, crime incidents per 1,000, commute times and the percent of population that walks or bikes to work.

- Leisure and culture, including arts and leisure activities such as museums, restaurants, bars, golf courses and ski resorts.

- Weather.

- Percent of population that is married or divorced.

Besides relying on statistical data from Onboard Informatics, survey representatives visit communities to interview residents, assess traffic, parks and gathering places, and consider intangibles such as community spirit.

Five Minnesota Cities made the 2010 list. They are:

1. Eden Prairie, population, 64,000.

11. Plymouth, 76,000.


13. Woodbury, 58,000.

15. Eagan, 64,000.

20. Apple Valley, 50,000.

Sioux Falls (at No. 77), population 161,000, was the lone representative from South Dakota.

Wisconsin has 4 on the list:

50. Waukesha, 68,000.

69. Eau Claire, 66,000.

95. Madison, 233,000.


96. Appleton, 71,000.

Here is what CNNMoney.com said about the North Dakota cities on the list:

74. Bismarck. Population, 60,000.

"Though in a rather remote location where the weather can be harsh, Bismarck is a safe, thriving city with much to offer.

"The capital of North Dakota boasts strong employment rates thanks to job opportunities in the state government and in health care.

"Off hours, residents can see history come to life at Fort Abraham Lincoln, go fishing, hunting, and golfing, or spend the day shopping and then grab a bite to eat at one of Bismarck's numerous restaurants."

86. Fargo. 97,000.

"Fargo benefits from its proximity to Moorhead, its twin city just across the Minnesota state line. Both are home to state universities and bring over 20,000 college students to the area each year.


"The city boasts restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, nightclubs, and the Fargo Dome, a 26,000-seat arena that has hosted musical acts like Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton.

"Fargo's diverse economy has kept the city steady. There is still an agricultural presence, but Fargo is also home to many health-care facilities and one of Microsoft's major campuses."

97. Grand Forks. 53,000.

"Don't let the cold weather deter you: This small city 75 miles from the Canadian border has lots of warm residents. Grand Forks boasts clean, safe streets, acres of green space, and more to do than a non-Midwesterner might expect.

"Hockey is king here, and the Ralph Engelstad Arena is home to the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux. The arena is also used for concerts and other sports matches.

"Grand Forks is a business hub for the surrounding area, with the university and LM Wind Power some of the city's biggest employers."

Here is what Money said about Eden Prairie:

"Not only is it family-friendly, it has a dynamite economy too.


"At 5.1 percent, its unemployment rate is nearly one percentage point below the county rate and more than four points below the national average. It helps when you've got 50,000 jobs right in town.

"Major employers include Fortune 500 trucking company C.H. Robinson, hearing-aid maker Starkey Labs, and the Minnesota Vikings, whose practice facility and front office are here. As for fiscal strength, Moody's gives the town a perfect AAA bond rating.

"While it doesn't have much of a downtown, there's plenty of outer beauty: from gently rolling hills to 17 lakes that residents flock to year-round for swimming and ice skating. Town parks are laced with 125 miles of running, hiking, and biking trails.

"No wonder residents rank among the healthiest people in the nation. Add in top-notch schools and safe streets and you've got a place that's tough to beat."

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com .

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