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Monday, July 12, 2010

Eden Prairie Best Small City; Sioux Falls 77th

A lesson in not tooting the horn too soon:

Over the July 4th weekend, Mayor Mike Huether teased readers of that Sioux Falls paper by mentioning that Money Magazine had contacted his office last month to talk about including the Queen City in its top cities list. O! to hearken back to those halcyon days of the 1990s when Money once named Sioux Falls the best place to live in the country. Might we be on the verge of recapturing our glory?

No. Surveying 752 cities of population 50K to 300K, Money crowns Eden Prairie, Minnesota, as the best little burg. Sioux Falls ranks 77th. Rapid City doesn't make the top 100.

Here's how Sioux Falls and Rapid City stack up against the top 10 cities on the list and the average metrics for the top 100:

Note that Money fails to include city sales tax for Sioux Falls and Rapid City. But tax rates apparently don't matter much: Minnesota's relatively high income tax doesn't keep Eden Prairie from ranking #1... or Plymouth, Woodbury, Egan, or Apple Valley from making the top 20.

Fargo, Lincoln, and Cedar Rapids all beat Sioux Falls with cheaper median housing prices. Grand Forks, Bismarck, Dubuque, Ames, Missoula, Rochester, and Cheyenne all beat Sioux Falls for shorter commute time (which makes sense, given how dependent Sioux Falls is on workforce driving from Harrisburg, Dell Rapids, Madison, and elsewhere). Sioux Falls doesn't even make the top 25 for clean air, falling behind Ames, Bismarck, Lincoln, Fargo, and even refinery-happy Cheyenne (uh oh: I feel a Hyperion argument coming on).

Sioux Falls does come out on top for job growth over the decade, thanks to Lincoln County's 67% job boom. Sioux Falls is also the 20th coldest city on the list (though Minnesota still beats the snowpants off us in this category, too).

Some nice places Sioux Falls beat overall:
  • Fargo (#86) but not Bismarck (#74)
  • Sioux City (as if there were any doubt)
  • Duluth
  • Green Bay and Milwaukee
  • Madison, Wisconsin (#95)
  • Kalamazoo
  • 15 out of 17 cities in Ohio
  • Boulder, Colorado (wait a minute—Boulder, you should call for a recount)
  • Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, and Boca Raton (seriously!)
  • every place in Oregon!
Peruse the full report yourself... and eagerly anticipate Mayor Huether's appearance at his next press conference wearing a #77 Fighting Pheasants jersey.

Related: South Dakota fails to make the list of the 2010 Digital Counties Survey Awards from the Center for Digital Government. Minnesota's Hennepin, Dakota, and Olmsted counties make the top-ten lists in their respective population groups. Half of South Dakota's counties don't even have websites.


  1. Great find, Cory.

    It's the brutal winters; climate better suited to the wolves that follow ungulates migrating south from Canada when all the humans that live north of I-90 flood into Cabo or Kino when Mexico becomes a State.

  2. Ames over Iowa City (#68), that's a litte hard to believe, and take as a former resident, minus those pesky tornados, terrible flooding, and the loss of it's incredible art collection, Iowa City is still far better (walkable, bikeable, cultural, happier, hippier, and all around greener)than Ames, especially during the summer.

    At least it beats Sioux Falls anyhow. (I secretly wish to turn Madison into SoDak's 'Iowa City', it's a ongoing conspiracy and late night plot, shhh)

  3. Wow. Having lived in Woodbury for 5 years... I mean, it's a nice enough place, but I really like St. Paul much better. I just don't see what's so great about no trees, cookie-cutter housing developments and golf courses. Most of the suburbs around here are the same- I'd have to assume that Eden Prairie is like that too (it's too far from, well, anything, for me to have been there recently).

  4. Crystal: agreed! I'd much rather spend a day biking around woody St. Paul than any of the outlying cookie-cutter sprawl. But as I look at some of the neighborhoods in Sioux Falls that were new when I was a kid and now are maturing, I can see where some of these suburbs will look much better once their trees catch up.

  5. I'll also acknowledge some apples and oranges here: there's a big difference between comparing Twin Cities suburbs that derive a big chunk of their amenities from their big neighbor and cities like Sioux Falls that stand on their own.

  6. I completely agree that it seems unfair to compare a suburb of a large metro area like the Twin Cities to a standalone area like Sioux Falls. They really don't compare, in my book.

    I take your point about trees growing- the older areas of some of the suburbs are pretty nice and tree-ful, but even that will not hide the blight of cookie-cutter housing. I seriously LOATHE those trendy new developments that have "Whisper" or "Dancing" in their names, where everything looks the same. Loathe is probably not a strong enough word; my husband, who doesn't care for those developments either, is often surprised at the amount of vitriol I can spew over those god-awful things.


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