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The small town atmosphere, serene lake setting and quaint downtown put Alexandria in the top 10 list of "America's Best Small Towns," according to Livability.com. (Photo by Amy Chaffins)

Alexandria ranks in 'Top 10 Best Small Towns in America'

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We knew it, now it's out for everyone else to discover - Alexandria is a great place to live.

Alexandria is ranked seventh on the list of "America's Top Small Towns."

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Livability.com, a website that ranks quality of life and travel amenities of America's small and mid-sized cities, revealed the list on July 2.

Sarah Stadtherr, executive director of Alexandria Hotel and Hospitality, said, "I think people are proud to live in Alexandria. I feel like we 'hit the goldmine' for where to live in the world."

Stadtherr helped coordinate the application for the best small towns list.

Editors at Livability.com narrowed their search for the top 10 towns by:

Steering clear of big-city suburbs and communities considered part of a larger metropolitan area.

Considering population and economic growth rates, comparing employment trends, cost of living and other economic factors.

Looking at a town's quality of life and amenities that attract relocating businesses and residents: community spirit, a less hurried atmosphere, good schools, an emphasis on family values and historic preservation.

Livability.com noted, "The community's active lifestyle, cultural offerings and beautiful scenery continue to attract new residents. A collection of lakes surround the town, creating an island-like atmosphere."

UNIQUENESS AND BALANCE

"I think our uniqueness is that we have multiple things for people to do, not only as a visitor, but as a resident too. We have a lot of things going on," Stadtherr said.

That's in addition to Alexandria's strong manufacturing, health care, agricultural and tourism base.

"I would call it the fabric of our community," Stadtherr said. "We've got theaters and the Central Lakes Trail. We've got the scenic byway that runs right through downtown and of course, our downtown is beautiful. I stressed all of those things in the application. Our fabric isn't just a surface-level look. We have all the things that make it a nice, strong fabric.

"We live in a modest community. But we really do rock. We're really incredible," she said.

Jason Murray, executive director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC), said Alexandria making the Top 10 Small Towns list is a great accolade and speaks well to the breadth of this community as a regional center.

"It speaks to the collaboration of our community, the work that both our government and non-profit sector do," Murray said. "To me, it's the value that our non-profit and governmental sectors work together. There's a strong partnership to really look at the community growth and the economic vitality."

He added, "We enjoy a balance most communities don't; a balance between our retail and manufacturing, health care, tourism and recreation. Sometimes we take that for granted, but it's such a well maintained balance and a nice amenity to have. I think that speaks to any ranking when you look at your community."

The AAEDC provided application information regarding Alexandria's demographics, population, employer growth and trends in the community.

Growth of the community is one point that made Alexandria a finalist. From 2010 to 2012, Alexandria's population grew by 4.3 percent.

"For us, we're an importer of laborers. We have more jobs in this community than we have people. Not all the other communities have that," Murray said.

IMPACT OF RANKING

"I think we could see an influx of visitors and hopefully will have a big economic impact in the short term, but the long term as well," Stadtherr said.

Murray said some local companies are already using the "Alexandria named a Top 10 Small Town" as an employee recruitment draw.

"It always backs up the conversation about the lakes and trails and recreation amenities our community has," he said. "If that helps them, that's great."

Stadtherr said, "Every opportunity starts with a visit to our community. So, if people come for a visit, they might come back for a visit. If they come back for a visit, they might decide to buy a cabin here. Or they might decide to relocate here or start a business here. It always starts with a visit."

Top 10 Small Towns in America 2013:

1. Dickinson, ND

2. Oxford, MS

3. Rock Springs, WY

4. Oak Harbor, WA

5. Brookings, SD

6. Los Alamos, NM

7. Alexandria, MN

8. Traverse City, MI

9. West Plains, MO

10. Cambridge, MD

Source: Livability.com, a website that ranks quality of life and travel amenities of America's small and mid-sized cities.

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, Amy’s first job was at KSAX-TV working as an anchor and reporter. From 2003-2010, Amy worked as an editor and reporter for the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times newspapers. During her journalism career, Amy earned writing and photography awards from the Associated Press, Minnesota Newspaper Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Amy and her husband, Brandon, live in Alexandria and together write “He Sez, She Sez,” a humor column in the local women’s magazine, Chicz
(320) 763-1242
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