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South Dakota Misses 50 Best Small Towns List; Minnesota Has 3

CNN Money lists what they call the 50 best small towns in the United States. They fail to include anyplace in South Dakota on that list.

Seriously? Have you people not been to Spearfish?!

The survey looked at towns with populations between 10,000 and 50,000, so Spearfish squeaked into the initial 1,326 candidates. The methodology then cut towns with median family income above 200% or below 85% of their state average. That booted Spearfish: from 2007 to 2011, that Spearfish median was $35,476, 74% of the South Dakota median of $48,010. (Combine that with Spearfish's 30% higher median home values, and you see that economically, Spearfish is a tough place to live.)

CNN Money then factored in job growth, housing, health care, education, arts and leisure, traffic, parks and gathering spaces, and other factors. Here's who made the list, with their populations and median family incomes:

rank town population median family income
1 Sharon, MA 17,944 139,850
2 Louisville, CO 18,924 104,321
3 Vienna, VA 16,285 144,502
4 Chanhassen, MN 23,685 124,200
5 Sherwood, OR 18,736 93,716
6 Berkeley Heights, NJ 13,345 164,920
7 Mason, OH 31,761 95,364
8 Papillion, NE 19,837 87,858
9 Apex, NC 40,205 93,207
10 West Goshen Township, PA 22,421 111,404
11 Westford, MA 22,407 139,397
12 Parker, CO 47,790 104,625
13 Montville, NJ 21,715 153,497
14 Farmington, UT 19,135 88,375
15 Shrewsbury, MA 36,048 104,008
16 Hillsborough, NJ 38,828 122,949
17 Apple Valley, MN 49,863 93,210
18 Westfield, IN 31,857 93,688
19 Newcastle, WA 10,723 120,082
20 The Colony, TX 39,055 89,308
21 Savage, MN 27,711 101,216
22 Waukee, IA 14,945 87,070
23 Merrimack, NH 25,686 99,434
24 Firestone, CO 10,629 88,457
25 Draper, UT 43,974 98,847
26 Brookfield, CT 16,788 131,547
27 Farmington, MI 10,378 81,117
28 Menomonee Falls, WI 35,974 86,491
29 Lindon, UT 10,846 79,726
30 Windham, NH 13,599 124,655
31 La Palma, CA 15,879 97,531
32 Coppell, TX 39,787 116,722
33 Suwanee, GA 16,002 95,747
34 Horsham, PA 15,094 83,184
35 Leesburg, VA 46,140 118,180
36 Mill Creek, WA 18,834 106,919
37 Ankeny, IA 46,973 89,479
38 Twinsburg, OH 18,636 85,129
39 Cheshire, CT 29,433 123,880
40 Ballwin, MO 30,523 93,449
41 Montgomery Village, MD 33,052 99,596
42 Solon, OH 23,012 106,828
43 Evans, GA 30,874 104,877
44 Pflugerville, TX 49,481 85,280
45 Spring Hill, TN 30,568 80,850
46 Buffalo Grove, IL 41,761 105,230
47 Pelham, AL 22,297 78,027
48 Peachtree City, GA 34,889 103,951
49 Walnut, CA 29,464 103,053
50 Simsbury, CT 23,689 131,397

CNN Money artificially limited each state to three entries in the top 50, so states can't use this list to claim supreme bragging rights. But among the three-bangers are Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Utah. Minnesota's three entries are Chanhassen, Apple Valley, and Savage, all suburbs of the Twin Cities.

If you scroll through those income levels, the only place in South Dakota where you'll find a median family income anywhere close to those listed above is Lincoln County, the Tea-Harrisburg metroplex, which just cracks $70K.


  1. Many of those on the list are suburbs, not "small towns." A suburb has a totally different feel from what I'd consider a small town--like not having much of a Main Street, and having little in town that's walkable or bikeable. If I were doing a best small town list, I'd rank income far lower on the criteria, and instead have quality-of-life factors much higher.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.13

    I wonder how those Minneapolis suburbs rank for walking and biking? Anyone been to downtown Chanhassen?

  3. John 2013.08.13

    Money magazine is only interested in selling magazines. Heidi noted many of the "towns' are suburbs buried in a metro-area of a million or more - as disingenuous as referring to Tea or Box Elder as small towns.

    Sprawling Spearfish isn't half as wonderful as it thinks it is - slathered over 5 interstate exits, one often with some of the state's worst exit traffic; low wages; high housing costs; difficult shopping (other than groceries) for most of its elder community. Spearfish, like too many towns, was co-opted by the developersters and now struggles mightily to keep its main street alive. The fact that the struggle has modest success is something to capture and build upon.

  4. Donald Pay 2013.08.13

    Yeah, it's marketing of the magazine, and that's all it is. They want relatively wealthy towns because those folks have the money to buy subscriptions. When towns that were in the top 5 for two years in a row fall completely off the list, you know they figured they have max-ed out the subscriptions in that community. Ba-Bye to that town. Hello to some other sucker.

  5. Wayne Pauli 2013.08.14

    Typical South Dakota rationalization. Never look in the mirror at what we do wrong, always point out the flaws that made you not get picked during recess during elementary school. We learned our lessons well as we are wonderful at finger pointing and the obligatory "if you do not like it, leave".

  6. Jenny 2013.08.14

    Apple Valley MN is a very clean town and it has
    one of the top zoos in the country. Cory, if you haven't been to this view. I highly recommend it. The tiger exhibit is absolutely amazing.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.15

    Hey, we took our little one to that zoo! Yay, tigers!

    It's great to see that kind of bicycle promotion, even in MInnesota's largest urban area. Small towns should offer cyclists better riding, what with less traffic, but small-town drivers need to catch up with their big-city counterparts on bicycle awareness.

Comments are closed.