WILKES-BARRE — Diamond City Partnership Executive Director Larry Newman said Friday he wishes he could be more enthusiastic about the Forbes Magazine ranking that put the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area as the eighth best place in the U.S. to raise a family.
“It’s difficult to get enthusiastic about these types of rankings because they come out a lot,” Newman said. “And they’re becoming increasingly more frequent. But don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that we’re being recognized in a positive way.”
The Forbes list had this to say about the region:
“One of the lowest median family incomes ($42,000) among U.S. metro areas, but crime is low, commutes are short and housing is affordable (87 percent of area homes are affordable at the median income level).”
Raleigh, N.C. was ranked at the top of the list.
“Whether they’re good or bad for our area, we should approach these types of rankings with some caution,” Newman said. “With that said, it’s always useful to see the ways in which our community compares favorably to others across the country when viewed through an objective lens.”
Newman said he appreciated this ranking because of the other cities that were ranked in the Top 10, like Raleigh, N.C., and Provo, Utah.
“The cities in this ranking are in fact recognized as being some of the faster growing and more attractive metros in the U.S.,” Newman said. “We do have short commute times and a relatively low crime rate. And that’s interesting because people here sometimes feel differently about crime. Look, no amount of crime is acceptable, but it does put things in perspective.”
In a 2013 Times Leader story, it was shown that Wilkes-Barre had more murders per capita than larger cities like New York and Philadelphia.
Newman said the ranking can be be used in marketing the region when trying to attract economic developers and businesses.
“The Forbes’ observations about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area echo the comments that we’ve heard from others about our area’s competitive advantages,” he said. “Those advantages are real, they add to our local quality of life and they certainly benefit our regional marketing efforts.”
However, Newman went on to say, “Our challenge as a community is to maintain and enhance those competitive advantages while we tackle other fundamental issues, such as low educational attainment, which contribute to poor wage and job growth and continue to hold us back economically.”
But Newman said, when these ranking come out, they should be talked about.
“One thing that continues to be troubling is the relatively low median family income here,” Newman said, “which we know about and have known about for years.”
Tom Van Riper of Forbes Magazine wrote the story and compiled the rankings.
“Taste in cities is always subjective, of course,” he wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with raising children in New York or Chicago, and if the bright lights and energy of those towns are what suits you then you probably wouldn’t be very happy in Raleigh, Grand Rapids or Omaha.”