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From “sleepy farming town” to “Rocket City.” And now, Huntsville can claim the No. 1 spot among the Best Places to Live in the United States on the closely watched annual ranking by U.S. News & World Report magazine.
City officials beamed at a news conference Tuesday following the release of the 2022-23 listing. The city came out on top among the nation’s 150 most populous metropolitan areas, using a scoring system that weighed communities on whether they were a “good value,” their desirability as places to live, their job markets and their quality of life.
Mayor Tommy Battle couldn’t help but pile on, noting that Huntsville is also the largest city in the state, based on recent census population data.
“We are the star of Alabama for a reason,” he said on the city’s website. “As more people discover what makes us the South’s best-kept secret, we take pride in our diverse community’s strength and authenticity. Rankings like these affirm our commitment to continuing to provide a healthy, thriving economy without losing our identity, while also welcoming new citizens and businesses with open arms. Great things are happening in Huntsville!”
Here’s how the magazine described the city in its report:
“Once a sleepy farming town, Huntsville gained national recognition during the Space Race of the 1960s and is now consistently among the fastest-growing metro areas in Alabama.
“In the past, the U.S. government relocated a team of German rocket scientists to the area and opened a NASA center that would design the Saturn V, the rocket that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon. Today, Huntsville residents pride themselves on being a nerdy bunch. The metro area has the most educated population in the state, and a large portion of the population works in engineering and defense thanks to the large presence of NASA and the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal.
“Huntsville’s city center has undergone a renaissance in recent years. An outbreak of new construction downtown means more shopping, dining and apartment options are available. Just west of downtown, a defunct cotton mill became a bustling arts center, and craft breweries, restaurants and an ax-throwing venue have sprung up in a renovated old middle school.”
Huntsville has much to crow about beyond the magazine’s chosen highlights. Just this month, a U.S. Defense Department report reaffirmed the decision to move the U.S. Space Command to the city from Colorado. The decision had been questioned by delegates from multiple states who had suggested it was politically motivated. Also this month, the region celebrated the opening of a new outdoor concert venue, the Orion Amphitheater, with a star-studded weekend of shows featuring major acts with ties to Alabama. The massive Mazda Toyota manufacturing facility near Huntsville continues to expand, while private spaceflight company Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is building rocket engines in town.
“When we meet people from outside Huntsville, they often tell us, ‘I had no idea,’” Battle said. “To be a part of this community during such a pivotal point in Huntsville’s history is an honor. We look forward to continuing to build on our momentum and make Huntsville a safe, affordable and livable city that all parts of our society can call home.”
Huntsville came out near the top of U.S. News’ list of most affordable places to live in the nation, at No. 3. And it landed at No. 16 among the nation’s fastest-growing areas. The closest rival to Huntsville in Alabama on the Best Places to Live ranking was Birmingham at No. 71.
Rounding out the top five behind Huntsville on the Best Places to Live list were Colorado Springs, Colorado, followed by Green Bay, Wisconsin; Boulder, Colorado; and San Jose, California. See the complete list here.