Area makes the 'Best Cities' list by Kiplinger's
Deseret Morning News Graphic
Still, Kiplinger's Bohemian score for Provo was 126, well above the national average of 100 and better than three of the other four cities Kiplinger's ranked among the top five for families — Atlanta (116), Des Moines (100), Green Bay (79). Minneapolis/St. Paul scored 128.
Magazine editors said the index highlights areas with a strong "creative class" that included scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists and entertainers. In fact, the rankings include the name of a public policy professor at George Mason University who is the author of "The Rise of the Creative Class."
Richard Florida's book asserts that the 40 million Americans who create for a living drive economic growth and cultural vitality.
The criteria for the best cities for families balanced the needs of children with those of parents. Low crime and a low overall cost of living were important factors, as was a strong student-to-teacher ratio, wholesome environments and plenty of activities families can do together.
The city is also home to Brigham Young University and many students who attend Utah Valley State College in neighboring Orem. The combination results in the lowest average age of residents — 23 — of any American city with more than 100,000 residents.
Previous rankings have placed Provo among the most conservative, affordable and technology- and business-friendly cities in the country.
The city's conventional lifestyle remains strong, but Knudsen sees signs Provo is becoming more cosmopolitan.
"Some could say life is a little sheltered here, but I think that's no longer the case," he said.
There's been a recent hint that the Republican grip on the area might slacken slightly. Hundreds of BYU students and local residents protested the recent commencement speech by Vice President Dick Cheney, and the county Democratic Party boasts of hundreds of new registered Democrats.
Closing the gap will take a while in a valley with more than 110,000 registered Republicans and fewer than 10,000 registered Democrats.
Provo's population is more than 116,000. Kiplinger's listed it as more than 440,000, which means it took most of Utah County into account.
"Nestled in the heart of the scenic Utah Valley, the Provo-Orem metro area has a strong economy, with employment expected to grow almost 4 percent this year," the magazine said. "Safe neighborhoods and great skiing, hiking and fishing nearby make the area a wonderful choice for families."
The magazine said all cities were judged on the strength of their technology — the presence of high-tech workers and businesses — talent and tolerance for all types of people.
Provo has a fast-growing Latino community. The dominant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has created several Spanish-language congregations while the St. Francis of Assisi parish in Orem has twice as many Spanish-language Masses as English-language ones.
BYU and the LDS Church have been recent targets of gay groups urging more tolerance for gay students and church members. BYU allows gays to attend the school and recently reworded examples attached to its Honor Code to clarify its position.
Graffiti is a growing nuisance in Provo, and while crime rates per capita are low, the increasing population in the city and county has led to more total crime in the valley. Still, Kiplinger's and Provoans said the area is better than most for families.
For Knudsen, this is the place.
"We all dream of living somewhere special in the world," he said. "We can't run away from issues no matter where you are, but I don't see any real disadvantages to living here."