Livability.com ranks Bozeman

Mike Greener/Chronicle

Patrons of the Blackbird Kitchen sip wine at the start of the dinner rush at the trendy downtown restaurant Wednesday afternoon. The City of Bozeman was recently named 22nd out of 100 in a survey by livability.com and received the highest ranking of any Montana town. 

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Another feather was stuck into Bozeman's cap Wednesday when Livability.com announced that it was the most livable city in Montana and the 22nd most livable in the country.

The ranking is a result of the Tennessee-based company's months-long, data-heavy ranking process. It ranked the 100 most livable cities with populations between 25,000 and 350,000 by eight categories — from healthcare and housing to amenities and infrastructure.

Missoula and Helena were the only other Montana cities included on the list. They ranked 60 and 95, respectively. Palo Alto, Calif., ranked No. 1.

It's an honor for the city, said Mayor Sean Becker. He typically rattles off a few of the Top 10 list honors — from a fourth-place ranking on National Geographic's 2012 list of the world's best ski towns to Outside magazine naming Bozeman one of the country's top 25 Dream Towns in 2010 — when he welcomes conferences in the spring and fall. The accolades are also ammunition for him to use as the city's “chief cheerleader” when recruiting businesses or helping local ones to expand or retain employees.

Becker also sees the honors as more than just a marketing tool.

“It's also (a way) to make an argument to the public for its investment in less sexy pieces of infrastructure, such as water and sewer pipes,” Becker said. “I'm always happy to see Bozeman ranked on these lists, pointing out things we know about the town already. But as we move forward we have to continue making these investments so the next generation gets an equally livable community.”

This particular listing relied on information pulled from places like the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and from private surveys, said Matt Carmichael, editor at Livability.com.

The ranking focused on eight categories: economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, social and civic capital, education and health care. A score was given for each category and the ranking was based on the total.

Those categories showed a town's economic vitality, its cultural diversity and how engaged the typical citizen is, Carmichael said. Bozeman placed high on the list because of its high scores in health care, social and civic capital and education.

“That speaks to a well-educated population. It speaks to a population that cares a lot about its community,” he said.

He added that the presence of an institution like a research university or a major hospital system seemed helpful in taking a city from a good place to live to a great place to live.

City Commissioner Chris Mehl, who also serves as policy director at local economic research group Headwaters Economics, said the Livability.com listing appeared to have sound methodology behind it.

He added that he's “thrilled Bozeman made the list.” The ranking lends credence to economists who say quality of life is an important part of economic growth, Mehl said.

Daryl Schliem, president and CEO of the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce, said factors such as health care and education are also big attractors for businesses, along with these lists.

“It spurs conversation,” Schliem said. “It definitely does.”

Jason Bacaj may be reached at jasonb@dailychronicle.com or 582-2635.

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