Kiplinger's: 'Huntsville is ahead of the game'

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The Huntsville Times

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Financial magazine ranks city at top of ’10 Best’ for jobs

An editor with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance spent a few days in Huntsville in April, touring the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Cummings Research Park, Redstone Arsenal and other landmarks. She also met with Mayor Tommy Battle and other local officials.

A month later, Huntsville has landed at the top of the magazine’s list of "10 Best Cities of 2009," selected for solid employment opportunities and the talent to create new, well-paying jobs.

There were some "compelling reasons" to choose Huntsville for the list, said Jane Bennett Clark, the magazine’s senior associate editor. "Obviously, Huntsville is ahead of the game because of BRAC, and it has a strong economy to begin with."

Clark, who said she was impressed with the "intellectual and entrepreneurial energy" in Huntsville, had never been to Alabama.

"Huntsville was a great place to start," she said.

And Huntsville officials celebrated the announcement, revealed to them Tuesday morning. Irma Tuder, the board chairwoman of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, called the city’s No. 1 ranking "a tremendous honor" for this community.

"It’s not often a community gets the opportunity to celebrate a day like today," Tuder said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The recognition, she said, "symbolizes what we, as a community, stand for."

Clark met with Tuder and Brian Hilson, the chamber’s president and CEO, during her visit. She also toured the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville Botanical Garden and the historic Twickenham district in Huntsville.

Huntsville is "a great place to live," with a quality of life that’s "second to none," Battle said. "I’m glad the world recognizes what we already know."
Tuesday, coincidentally, marked the first day for Madison’s economic development team, said Madison Mayor Paul Finley.

"This is what we are able to give them" to use in their recruiting efforts, he said. A Chicago-area firm, which specializes in helping municipalities with economic development, was hired last week to handle retail recruiting.

"This is an exciting day for our community," Finley said.

The magazine described Huntsville as a city that represents "critical mass for the nation’s missile-defense and aerospace industries as well as medical and life-sciences sectors." The article stated that the city also owes much of its vitality to the Army.

Other cities making the list are Albuquerque, N.M.; Washington, D.C.; Charlottesville, Va.; Athens, Ga.; Olympia, Wash.; Madison, Wis.; Austin, Texas; Flagstaff, Ariz.; and Raleigh, N.C. Kiplinger’s evaluated information on job growth and potential job growth, population and income growth,
the unemployment rate and cost of living to determine city rankings. Martin Prosperity Institute research director Kevin Stolarick developed a formula that identifies cities with stable employment even in tough times.

"Although downturns are felt by everyone, our research has shown that the impact is less severe for those in the creative class – people who are paid to think," Stolarick said in a statement. "People in fields such as science, engineering, architecture, and education are catalysts of vitality and livability in a city."

By Marian Accardi
Times Business Writer