Anyone who is a fan of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Talking Heads fan will likely remember their song “Cities.” Originally included on the 1979 album “Fear of Music,” it later appeared in the concert movie “Stop Making Sense.”
The song not unexpectedly namechecks lots of cities—London (and perhaps not England’s version—it’s described as a ‘small city…’ Birmingham, El Paso, and Memphis. Lead singer David Byrne talks about the “good points” and “some bad points” about each place, and pledges to “find a city, find myself a city to live in.”
The song may be tongue in cheek—with this band lyrics are sometimes less than obvious– but the strictly interpreted spirit is one shared almost universally. People have a fascination with lists of cities ranked according to various criteria, and evaluating them for livability measures. On November 5th, 2016, USA Today published a study conducted by 24-7 Wall St that ranks the 50 best cities in America to live in.
Not only is the sentiment shared with the Talking Heads, but also the grammatically imperfect ending of a sentence with a preposition. One has to wonder whether the author was a fan of the band.
People move or investigate moving for lots of reasons—buying a home, looking for a new job, leaving a parent’s home for the first time, and more.
Most people would like to think their chosen destination will be somewhere they’ll enjoy living, and though the criteria are different for each person there are many common threads: quality of schools, safety, cultural opportunities, perhaps climate. But no single criterion is as universally important as the strength of the chosen city’s economy and the attendant job opportunities.
550 United States cities with populations over 65,000 persons were analyzed for this study. Crime rates, economic growth, restaurants, attractions, educational environment, housing affordability, the health of the citizenry, average income and the heavily weighted factor of unemployment rates and more were all considered.
Perhaps what makes lists of this type so interesting is that in the distillation of a myriad of assorted information sometimes the outcome is most interesting. With the USA Today list, for instance, no one would have expected Talking Heads to have ever name checked Meridian, Idaho— nor indeed perhaps anyone not living within 50 miles of that city—but Meridian was indeed selected as the single best city in America in which to live.
Before questioning the validity of the list coming up with a city with which few Americans may be familiar, be aware that Meridian is located just outside the Idaho capital of Boise. Proximity to a larger city helped the rankings of cultural offerings, availability of travel options, and more. Several of the cities selected were ‘edge’ cities located close to a much larger metropolis—but far enough away to enjoy a significantly lower crime rate than the larger city. The #5 city, Eagan, MN is such an example—located across the river from Minneapolis/St. Paul.
The population of Meridian is listed by the U.S. Census at 87,739, and less than 80 violent crimes were reported in 2014. With 66,000 persons, Eagan reported only 24 violent crimes in 2014. Compare these figures to the national rate of 366 violent crimes per 100,000 residents and it becomes evident that Meridian and Eagan are very safe cities.
The national jobless rate hovers around 6.2%– much improved over the darkest days of the Great Recession—but in Meridian, unemployment is only 4.1%. And jobs are being added faster there—much faster—than the U.S. as a whole: 7.4% increase in jobs from 2012 through the end of 2014 for Meridian compared to 1.8% job growth for the country. Looking at Eagan with only 3.3% unemployment, the argument could be made the better employment prospects seem intrinsically linked with lower crime rates. See what conclusions you can make when you look at the list of the entire Top 50.
People like lists—almost any kind of list– because they are a summation of a lot of data. They are clean, and neat, and allow swift analysis of the factors deemed most important to the user. In business evaluation, everyone talks about KPI—Key Performance Indicators, which are summations of various data evaluations. Spreadsheets give management reports based on known data from many criteria while pivot tables allow manipulation of different factors to analyze the “What if?” question. More reliable data= better business decisions.
What about your business? What are the Key Performance Indicators to which you devote your attention? Do you have all the data you need, when you need it in regards to these factors?
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In today’s business, you need to understand the performance metrics that affect you. If you want to join the rankings of America’s best companies, 5i Solutions can help you make the list.