Albany ranked in best small cities list

ALBANY -- As far as small cities go, Albany is considered one of the best.

The city was listed among 183 others in the country as one of the "Best Small Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes.com earlier this month.

"It's the low cost of doing business and the low cost of living," explained Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission Spokeswoman Barbara Rivera Holmes.

Albany was ranked 179th overall. In terms of cost of doing business, the city was ranked 106th. Albany also scored 151st in educational attainment, and 107th in projected job growth.

Educational attainment may be the factor dropping the city lower on the list than many people would like to see, but experts say there are positives to be taken from this.

"When looking at this ranking, there are some positives to zero in on," said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College. "Primarily, our cost of living stands out and ranks among the upper third of the U.S. We are also fairly competitive in terms of cost of doing business, which focuses on cost of labor, energy, taxes and office space. In fact, our cost of business is lower in comparison to other smaller metro areas such as nearby Macon, Warner Robins, Athens and Brunswick. Our area colleges were also competitive and near the U.S. median within this ranking.

"As for areas of improvement, we primarily need to focus on improving our educational attainment ranking. It is critical that we find ways to improve our local school districts and increase the skills of our work force. Improvement in those areas will help in improving our projected job growth numbers and lowering our crime rates."

Aside from the lower cost of living, access to water and a securable work force may also make Albany an ideal place to do business, Holmes said.

"This (the ranking) is one more thing we can put in our arsenal," she said. "We have a lot of really good things going for us."

Albany also made the list in 2008. Nine other cities from Georgia were ranked this year: Athens (26), Gainesville (47), Warner Robins (59), Valdosta (79), Brunswick (102), Hinesville (122), Macon (141), Rome (144) and Dalton (172).

The rankings were released April 14. Sioux Falls, S.D. was given the top spot, and Jackson, Mich. was ranked 184th.

The information released by Forbes.com also indicated that the college education attainment rate for the Albany area is 16.4 percent. The high school education attainment rate was found to be at 79.7 percent. Median household income is $34,729 and the median home price is $87,800.

The metro area's population is 165,000. The 2009 unemployment rate for the region was 9.5 percent. The metro gross product is $4.6 billion.

A representative from Forbes.com did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday afternoon.