Last year, Norman was ranked 40th on the list, which to me is about right. What accounted for the sudden rise in rankings? This year, the magazine also factored in average commute time. What this did was to over-emphasize small towns that have lots of jobs at the expense of bedroom communities. Small towns with jobs are either industrial park suburbs or college towns.
Universities will locate in small towns and offer lots of employment. A college town typically also has a good, diverse cultural scene. Norman has two world-class museums. The Fine Arts school puts together a good musical theater season. The athletic department offers great football, basketball and volleyball teams. Restaurants are cheap and good because they cater to locals (students) who eat out a lot.
So, now, Money's best small cities list is pretty much a list of college towns and industrial park suburbs:
- Plymouth, MN (industrial park suburb of Minneapolis)
- Fort Collins, CO (Colorado State University)
- Naperville, IL (industrial park suburb of Chicago)
- Irvine, CA (Univ. of California, Irvine)
- Franklin Township, NJ
- Norman, OK (Univ. of Oklahoma)
- Round Rock, TX (industrial park suburb of Austin)
- Columbia, MD
- Overland Park, KS (industrial park suburb of Kansas City)
- Fishers, IN (suburb of Indianapolis)
Norman is not really that great, folks. Don't all of you come all at once.