Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

December 25, 2012
Forbes: Tooele among friendliest U.S. towns

Tooele City has been named the 10th friendliest town in America by Forbes online.

Forbes teamed up with Nextdoor.com, a social networking site for neighborhoods based in San Francisco, Calif., to assess 500 small metro areas with populations between 5,500 and 150,000. The top 15 friendliest towns were listed after data from various entities was collected.

Forbes and Nextdoor. com used data from the U.S. Census, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Chronicle of Philanthropy — a Washington, D.C.-based newspaper that caters to nonprofit leaders, fund raisers and grant makers involved in the philanthropic enterprise — and City-Data. com — a site that compiles data from numerous sources to create profiles of U.S. cities — to rank the towns based on five different data points. These points included the percentage of owner-occupied homes, the crime rate, charitable giving and the percentage of college graduates. Nextdoor.com also conducted qualitative surveys among its membership in the towns that rated the highest to help finalize the ranking.

Tooele was ranked as the 10th friendliest town in America because it scored very high in terms of charitable giving due to neighborhood fundraisers for local charities, residents host National Night Out events every year and have organized neighborhood watch groups, and town social events include the Tooele Arts Festival and local rodeos, according to Forbes. Morgan Brennan, the reporter for Forbes who compiled the data for the report, said the 15 towns were determined by internal methodology.

“We took data available and quantified a concept that involved daily living,” she said. “The word ‘friendliest’ can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people, so we decided to cross methodologies with several different data sources and data points.”

Brennan said home ownership was considered a data point because many studies show in neighborhoods where people own their homes there is a direct correlation to a higher quality neighborhood.

Although the crime rate in Tooele is basically on par with the rest of the nation, Brennan said, because Tooele hosts events to help prevent crime it scored higher on the list than other towns.

The percentage of the population with a college education was also a criteria in the rankings. That category does not appear to favor Tooele, however, since recent U.S. Census Bureau data shows Tooele has significantly fewer college graduates than the national average, with 17 percent of the city’s adult population holding at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 28.2 percent nationwide.

“When it comes to college education, that sounds like a very surprising factor to look at, but there have been a lot of reports done between the level of community involvement and local voting records and how many people have a college education,” Brennan said. “There’s a strong relationship between getting involved civically and a college education.”

Brennan said charitable giving was used as a data point because it showed the level of local engagement and the giving nature of the community.

“Tooele has a very high rank of charitable giving out of the towns we looked at,” Brennan said. “That was a big part of their ranking.”

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a study published in August shows that Tooele residents contribute an average of 8 percent of their income annually to charities. That compares to the U.S. average of 4.7 percent.

Brennan said Nextdoor.com also conducted a series of surveys asking residents questions about the level of friendliness they felt their town had.

“Nextdoor.com has a presence is all of these different towns in the country, so they created an index that looked at community involvement and mingling happening on their local Nextdoor.com sites.”

The No. 1 friendliest town in America was Sammamish, Wash.; No. 2 was Orinda, Calif., No. 3 was Fishers, Ind., No. 4 was Seal Beach, Calif., and No. 5 was Westerville, Ohio. The top five towns were ranked as the top five because they all have relatively little crime, high rates of home ownership, a heavily educated population and an abundance of community activities, according to Forbes.

The friendliest towns in America list was published Dec. 19 online at Forbes.com.

Tooele City Mayor Patrick Dunlavy said it wasn’t a surprise to him to hear that Tooele had been ranked the 10th friendliest city in America.

“I’ve been saying that for years,” he said. “I put a sign up on my office wall when I first got elected that says Tooele is the greatest city in Utah, but it’s great to have that validated by publications outside of our area. It’s really gratifying to be acknowledged that way, because we are friendly.”

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