In these economic improving but still struggling times, 24/7 Wall Street has picked the twenty best run cities in America. The top five all are moderately sized cities with strong universities and high tech in their neighborhoods. Seattle with 620,778 people came in at number six and Austin, Texas with over 800,000 people came in at number nine.
1. Plano, Texas
- Population: 271,380
- Credit rating: Aaa, no outlook
- Violent crime per 1,000 people: 1.62 (2nd lowest)
- Unemployment rate: 6.9% (13th lowest)
Plano, based in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, is the best-run city in America. Among households in the city, 14% earned over $200,000 in 2011, the fourth-highest proportion of all cities. Meanwhile, a mere 1.9% of households earned under $10,000, which was the second-lowest of all cities. The city’s 1.62 violent crimes per 1,000 people is the second-lowest of all large cities. Plano is home to many corporate headquarters, including J.C. Penney and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. These companies are among the 10 largest employers in the city. The city appears to be largely unaffected by the housing crisis. The median home price rose by more than 5% between 2007 and 2011, while the national median price fell by more than 10%.
2. Madison, Wis.
- Population: 236,889
- Credit rating: Aaa, stable
- Violent crime per 1,000 people: 3.48 (15th lowest)
- Unemployment rate: 4.9% (2nd lowest)
Madison is home to the state capitol, as well as the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus. In addition, the region is a base to employers in fields such as technology and healthcare. The unemployment rate of 4.9% in 2011 was the second-lowest among all large cities in the U.S. Of the city’s adult population, 54% have a bachelor’s degree, the third-highest rate among the top 100 largest cities. In December, the Madison City Council adopted a rule banning the government from using emergency reserves to fund the operating budget unless two-thirds of members vote otherwise. With the city exercising this kind of caution, it is no surprise Moody’s analytics rates madison general obligation debt as a perfect Aaa, with a stable long-term outlook.
3. Irvine, Calif.
- Population: 215,511
- Credit rating: Not rated
- Violent crime per 1,000 people: 0.56 (the lowest)
- Unemployment rate: 6.5% (tied- 11th lowest)
With almost 97% of residents aged 25 and over with at least a high school diploma, and with nearly 63% with at least a bachelor’s degree, Irvine has the most educated population of all of the 100 most populous cities. The city’s high educational attainment has translated to a highly compensated population — a whopping 18.8% of households earned more than $200,000 in the last year. Irvine has the lowest violent crime rate of all the 100 largest cities, with just 0.56 violent crimes per 1,000 people in 2011. Irvine’s government has received a lot of flack recently for its efforts to transform the Orange County Great Park, with critics arguing that more than $200 million worth of spending has gone to waste. The newly elected City Council has pledged more oversight on spending and has terminated contracts with two firms working on the project.
4. Lincoln, Neb.
- Population: 262,350
- Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook
- Violent crime per 1,000 people: 3.71 (18th lowest)
- Unemployment rate: 3.9% (the lowest)
Lincoln’s 3.9% unemployment rate in 2011 was the lowest of all metropolitan areas in the country. The city is home to the University of Nebraska’s flagship campus, which employs more than 8,000. Like Omaha, Lincoln has been spared from the recession more than most places. Home values rose 2.7% between 2007 and 2011 compared to a 10.7% drop nationwide. In 2011, just 0.36% of Lincoln’s homes were in foreclosure, the eighth-lowest rate among large cities. Like many of the other top-rated cities, Lincoln’s general obligation debt is rated as a perfect Aaa, with a stable outlook.
5. Fremont, Calif.
- Population: 216,912
- Credit rating: Not rated
- Violent crime per 1,000 people: 1.77 (6th lowest)
- Unemployment rate: 7.5% (tied- 23rd lowest)
Fremont was incorporated in 1956, joining five towns together as a single city. The city is near the core of Silicon Valley, while also connected to San Francisco by the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. It has one of the most educated and high-earning populations in America, with over 51% of residents age 25 and older holding a college degree in 2011. That year, median household income was $92,665, the highest of any large city in the U.S. The city has an exceptionally strong manufacturing base, with almost 22% of working adults employed in the sector. Among the companies with manufacturing operations in Fremont are tech manufacturers Western Digital and Seagate Technologies, as well as electric car builder Tesla Motors.