July 25, 2013

Kiplinger's ranks Columbia in America's 10 Great Places to Live

Washington, D.C. (July 25, 2013)—Kiplinger's Personal Finance is revealing its annual city ranking, "10 Great Places to Live." This year's rankings place an emphasis on small and mid-size cities, considering metro areas with a population of one million or less that have good jobs, reasonably priced homes, decent schools and access to great health care. The rankings appear in Kiplinger's September 2013 issue—on newsstands August 6, 2013—and available online now.

Of the great places to live, Little Rock, Arkansas takes top honors. With its scenic beauty, diverse community, cultural offerings and key employers—including the state government and two major universities—Little Rock has the amenities of a larger city but is small enough that residents feel part of the community. Burlington, Vermont, and Bryan-College Station, Texas, round out the top three, taking second and third place, respectively.

Kiplinger's "10 Great Places to Live":

1.    Little Rock, Arkansas

2.    Burlington, Vermont

3.    Bryan-College Station, Texas

4.    Santa Fe, New Mexico

5.    Columbia, South Carolina

6.    Billings, Montana

7.    Morgantown, West Virginia

8.    Ithaca, New York

9.    Anchorage, Alaska

10.  Dubuque, Iowa

"Each year we take a look at America's cities and choose those that stand out in a particular category—say, for raising a family, starting out after college or enjoying retirement," says Janet Bodnar, Editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance. "The cities in this year's rankings have a manageable size combined with a wide range of benefits that allow residents to enjoy a convenient and comfortable lifestyle."

Here's what Kiplinger's has to say about Columbia:

Surrounded by towering pines and bursting with hospitality, Columbia is as sweet as the area's ever-present tea, thanks to the diversified economy, family-friendly atmos­phere and central location.

As the state capital and home to Fort Jackson, the largest military training base in the country, Columbia has plenty of government jobs. It also boasts six colleges, including the flagship University of South Carolina -- you'll find Gamecocks spirit wherever you go. Manufacturing and insurance companies add to the mix. Seven major hospitals provide both jobs and top-notch medical care. Columbia's balanced approach has yielded robust growth in the past few years; unemployment is 6.9%.

Set halfway between the mountains and the Atlantic and within two hours of Charlotte and Charleston, Columbia's location is a big draw. But the city has its own attractions, including an art museum, a children's museum and Riverbanks Zoo, rated one of the top ten in the country. Three rivers converge downtown, so a bike ride along Riverwalk or an afternoon of tubing is always on the menu, as are boating and water sports on nearby Lake Murray. Although the city lives up to its motto, "famously hot," in August, annual temperatures average a moderate 65 degrees.

Reasonably priced housing and good schools (including some that are tops in the state) make the Columbia area ideal for families. A three-bedroom, two-bath home in the leafy Shandon neighborhood averages $250,000.

Columbia's downtown combines historic facades with hip boutiques and eateries.
What the locals love: Outdoor living, Southern hospitality and South Carolina -- grown items on menus at local restaurants, such as the Oak Table.

Contact Jessica Weeg.