Albany metro ranked 36th best place to live

corning tower view 2014-04-01

For what it's worth: US News "Best Places" rankings pegs the Albany metro as the 36th best place to live among the country's 100 most populous metro areas. And Albany ranks #15 among medium-sized metros (200k-1 million population).

The rankings are based on a range of topics and data sources, from jobs to cost of living to crime to migration patterns to "desirability."

The Albany metro scored better for its job market (low unemployment) and quality of life (low crime rates and short commutes). It scored not so well for desirability and net migration.

Desirability and how people perceive this place
All of these sorts of rankings tend to be squishy. And the desirability angle of this one seems especially so. From the methodology page: "Using Google Consumer Survey, we polled people across the country to find out in which of the ranked metro areas they would most like to live. The metro areas were then ranked according to the percentage of the total votes they received."

It's not surprising the Albany metro didn't score well in that sort of measure. This can be a very good place to live, but we suspect most people in other parts of the country not only don't know that -- it wouldn't even occur to them. This entire place probably wouldn't occur to them.

We always get a little... something... when people start talking about "brand," especially as it relates to a place. But there's something to that idea. What is the Albany metro's brand? When people in other parts of the country hear of Albany, what do they think? Why do they think that?

You might not care what other people think. And that's fine. But it does matter to some extent. Talk with someone who's tried to recruit people nationally for a job here -- they'll almost always tell you it's a struggle convincing people they'll want to live here. And the success of a place is in part related to how well it can attract people from other places.

One of the things we've always thought was weird about the Albany area is that it lacks a strong identity. Most of those traits that help shape the identity of other places -- trademark foods, sports teams, prominent industries, some sort of local attitude or cool -- aren't very pronounced here. So there's not a lot for people who are not from here to associate with this place.

Is there a way for this metro area to cultivate a stronger identity? Should it even try? Maybe that sort of quality is an emergent attribute that bubbles up from a place getting stuff done in other areas like growing jobs or creating a rich cultural scene.

Often the worst way to become attractive or cool is to desperately want to be attractive or cool.

[US News ranking via @MPOCDTC]


I was at a diner in Millerton and the waitress was from Brooklyn. She was way impressed we were from Albany. Said something like "you guys are so hip because you can never be hip cause you're Albany. You're like so uncool you're cool, not like this artisan glass blowing whatever rich white people stuff down here". And she was serious. It was very interesting. I told her about Nine Pin, and said there were a few things I thought make us a little cool.

What's amazing to me, having moved to the greater Philly area, is that NO ONE down here knows where Albany is. They also don't know where the Adirondacks are. And Troy? Forget it.

Now, in fairness, before moving here my knowledge of Pennsylvania geography was extremely limited (now it's just highly limited), but I had an idea of where Harrisburg was.

So if people four hours to the south don't really have any sense of where Albany is (and don't feel singled out -- Syracuse brings similar blank looks), don't imagine that people from further away have any more of a sense.

Good stories, Emily and Carl.

Love the idea of Albany Uncool, I can get behind that.

As far as Philly, maybe someone should remind them of Ben Franklin and his role in building a convincing set of propaganda leading into the Albany Plan of the Union.

"Most of those traits that help shape the identity of other places -- trademark foods...aren't very pronounced here."

It is long past time that Albany restaurants rename their hamburgers "Steamed Hams".

Albany Uncool: Authenthic Land of U Albany students wearing hooded sweatshirts and state workers. Can we market that? Or can we just video tape the waitress in Millerton talking about how Albany is so cool precisely because we're not especially trying to be something to market. I like it.

These US News rankings are absurd. Boston is 30th, but Harrisburg, PA, a city swimming in debt and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy is 25th. And Oklahoma City comes in 31st, right after Boston. 'nuff said about that.

If sexual orientation was factored into these rankings, the whole thing would have to be revised. A large number of the putative top 20 would hardly be safe for a gay person to visit, let alone attempt to reside in.

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