August 17, 2011

Top 7 Small Towns to Ride Out Tough Economy

‘Fly over country’ gains clout over its urban counterparts

When it comes to the economy, it’s bad, but not all bad. A team of CNN Money writers joined Onboard Informatics in ranking the top small towns (under 50,000 people) in the country for low crime and high employment, as well as good schools, cultural attractions and weather, among other factors. If “Green Acres” is the place for you, check out these overlooked and underdeveloped American hamlets.

jesse james7. Liberty, Mo.

Population: 29,100 Unemployment: 7.6%

Vanessa Richardson notes Liberty is a draw for history buffs and Mormons (or both). “Known to tourists as the town where Jesse James' gang staged its first daytime bank robbery—and where Mormon prophet Joseph Smith languished in jail before fleeing west—Liberty today is a charming place with a quick commute to Kansas City's mix of jobs in telecom, engineering, and life sciences,” Richardson writes.

 

6. Hanover, N.H.

Population: 8,600 Unemployment: 4.4%

“Dartmouth College, located in this hamlet near the White Mountains, gives Hanover an economic, social, and cultural advantage rare in towns so far from major urban centers,” Pieter van Noordennen writes. “Unemployment in town is about half the statewide average (Dartmouth and its top-rated medical center provide over 12,000 jobs).”

5. Papillion, Neb.

Population: 18,900 Unemployment: 4.2%

“Nebraska, sexy? You'd better believe it,” Sarah Max boldly states. “With agriculture booming, towns here are showing employment and housing-market strength that's the envy of the coasts. Papillion is no exception; its economy benefits from a broad base of industries, including health care and transportation, in nearby Omaha.”

George C. Marshall House in Leesburg, Va.4. Leesburg, Va.

Population: 42,600 Unemployment: 4.1%

“Leesburg, which snuggles up to the Virginia-Maryland border, offers proximity to plenty of good jobs not just in government but also in defense contracting, consulting, and technology,” says van Noordennen. True, he notes, commutes can be “abysmal.” But residents say that the tradeoff to live in this pretty town is worth it, which, he says, “has seen more history than a Ken Burns film.”

3. Solon, Ohio

Population: 23,300 Unemployment: 8.2%

“Solon is a small town with a large tax base: Major employers include Nestle, L'Oreal, and industrial equipment maker Swagelok,” according to writer Anne Lee. “Solon punches above its weight in other areas too. Health care? The world-renowned Cleveland Clinic has a family health center here. Culture? Solon has its own philharmonic orchestra.”

rocky mountains2. Milton, Mass.

Population: 27,000 Unemployment: 6.6%

“Milton is just minutes from the jobs and culture of Boston but feels in places like a country getaway,” writes CNN’s Ismat Sarah Mangla. “Tree-lined streets are dotted with historic homes. Single-family home prices have remained essentially unchanged since the market's peak in 2005.” However, she points to a significant downside: high taxes. After all, this is Massachusetts.

1. Louisville, Colo.

Population: 18,400 Unemployment: 6.3%

CNN Money’s Jessica Levine writes “This sunny, lively mountain town is safe (crime rates are among the lowest in Colorado) and easy to navigate. Lots of good jobs in tech, telecom, aerospace, clean energy, and health care can be found right in Louisville, and more are on their way. And there's world-class mountain biking, hiking, and skiing in the nearby Rockies.”

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More Top 10 lists from AdvisorOne:
Top 10 Worst Tax States for Retirees
Top 10 Biggest Tax Breaks: What to Cut to Trim Deficit?
Top 10 Wealthiest U.S Cities

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