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Magazine ranking good for business and branding

Locals react after St. Albert tops annual MoneySense magazine best places list

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Friday, Mar 14, 2014 04:15 pm

FAMILY APPEAL – St. Albert's family-friendly nature was one factor that landed the city atop MoneySense magazine's list of best places to live in Canada.
FAMILY APPEAL – St. Albert's family-friendly nature was one factor that landed the city atop MoneySense magazine's list of best places to live in Canada.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Being ranked the best place to live in Canada by MoneySense magazine can be good for business and St. Albert’s brand, say local leaders.

“I think that we all know that we live in the best city in Canada and that’s why we do what we do and why we do it here,” said Lynda Moffat, CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce.

Moffat said there’s a healthy business community here that’s well-positioned to take advantage of Alberta’s booming economy.

MoneySense released its annual community rankings earlier this week. St. Albert narrowly edged Calgary as the best overall city in which to live.

The rankings, especially the number one spot, does help raise awareness of St. Albert, Moffat said.

“They’re a boost to the whole community. They’re especially a boost for us in attracting new business to come here,” she said.

Ian Robertson, a local Remax realtor, said this kind of ranking has the potential to help attract new residents, but it’s often enthused St. Albertans spreading the word to others about St. Albert’s amenities that brings people to this community.

“I think the word-of-mouth is what gets it,” he said.

The majority of people relocating to this region are interested in St. Albert or nearby Sturgeon County, Robertson said.

The one knock? Property tax, he said. But Robertson said the housing prices here are lower than other popular areas like south Edmonton.

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse said continuing to do well on the annual MoneySense rankings and other polls can help build the city’s brand.

“I think you continue to do these on a regular basis, it draws people in,” Crouse said. “You brand yourself as a great place to be.”

Last year, St. Albert came second to Calgary.

“St. Albert is kind of part of a really interesting phenomenon,” said MoneySense senior editor David Hodges.

Hodges explained that smaller cities that exist on the fringes of large ones have been rising in the rankings. St. Albert is benefiting from that trend and from the rise of the West.

“You have the small town flair, your businesses there are booming, there’s a lot to do in the town itself but you still have all the big city conveniences,” Hodges said.

Methodology

MoneySense assigns weighted points to a variety of categories, which include household income, real estate, access to health care, weather, amenities, crime rates and even the number of new cars on the road.

“In the case of St. Albert, it’s just basically it’s a very affluent community, you have low unemployment rates, you have high incomes, you have great access to health care. Obviously it’s a fantastic place to raise kids,” Hodges said.

St. Albert was ranked as the fifth best place to raise kids and, in addition to being first overall, as the best small city.

The margin of difference between St. Albert and Calgary was razor-thin. Out of 103 possible points. St. Albert had 71.51 points and Calgary had 71.41.

“I think it really boiled down to just really small details. I think it was basically a minor hiccup in Calgary’s unemployment rate and a slight uptick in the population growth which can put a strain on the city,” Hodges said.

As for how St. Albert can garner more points in the future, Hodges said continued improvements to the crime rate and an increase in those who walk, bike or take public transit to work might help the city’s score.

Culture and family-friendly

Sandy Biener, the executive director of the St. Albert Family Resource Centre, says her organization occasionally hears that the centre and other amenities aimed at families factor into decisions to move here.

“I think there are a lot of resources. Even though we’re attached to a larger centre, we’ve still sort of got that smaller feel,” she said.

While St. Albert got high marks for affluence – its average household income was listed as being just over $128,000 – Biener pointed out there’s a wide range of incomes in this city.

In the category of culture, points were awarded based on the percentage of residents employed in arts, culture, recreation and sports industries.

Ann Ramsden, executive director of the Arts and Heritage Foundation, said culture is often what distinguishes one community from another.

“I think it’s the hidden gem. I think it really does distinguish us from so many other communities,” Ramsden said.

Crime

“I don’t have to have MoneySense tell me that I live in one of the best communities in Canada,” said Insp. Kevin Murray, the RCMP detachment commander.

While he said St. Albert has a relatively low crime rate, and is on the low side of crime severity, he said it’s hard to tell if it’s something St. Albert is doing or part of a countrywide trend.

Murray was leery of putting emphasis on crime trends and indicators when it could change.

Instead, his department would like to do more proactive policing.

Just because St. Albert scored well this year, including points for its declining crime rate, doesn’t mean the city should kick up its heels.

“I don’t think we should rest on our laurels. We certainly aren’t here at the police detachment,” Murray said.

Politicians weigh in

You don’t need to tell St. Albert’s mayor, MLAs or MP that this city is a great one.

“[The ranking’s] based on subjective criteria, but nonetheless it is indicative of what is in fact a great city to live in,” said MP Brent Rathgeber, who noted the cultural activities and other amenities St. Albert offers.

The mayor credited the work of generations of community builders.

“It’s really a product of decades and decades and decades of building a community,” Crouse said.

St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan was “not surprised in the least” at St. Albert’s rank and said “it certainly can’t hurt” the city’s prospects.

“We certainly like to have fun with these types of announcements,” Khan said.

But, he noted, rankings like this can be transient.

“When you’re number one there’s only one way to go,” he said. “In somebody else’s poll we might not be number one, but for many of us it’s always going to be number one.”


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