Hickory is one of the 50 best places to live in the United States, topping Winston-Salem and Greensboro in this year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings.
In the report released this week, 150 metropolitan statistical areas were ranked. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton statistical area ranked 49th for 2020-2021. Hickory finished eighth in the cheapest places to live ranking and 90th for best place to retire.
Hickory earned 49th best place to live based on data collected by U.S. News about the job market, housing affordability, quality of life, desirability and migration, according to the report. The organization uses public surveys and data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Hickory MSA came in high for affordability and housing value, with housing costs under the national average, according to U.S. News. The area also has a lower than average crime rate and, at the time of the ranking, had a low unemployment rate at 3.7 percent.
Charlotte ranked sixth among best places to live. The Raleigh-Durham area ranked 11th and Asheville ranked 34th. Winston-Salem ranked 59th and Greensboro ranked 83rd.
Hickory's top-50 ranking should be no surprise to those who live in the area, Chamber of Catawba County President and CEO Lindsay Keisler said.
“It really is an incredible place to live,” she said. “We have a lot of opportunities and amenities in our community that are just super unique for a community of our size.”
Those amenities include the minor league baseball team the Hickory Crawdads and the SALT Block — which includes the Catawba Science Center, the Hickory Museum of Art and the Western Piedmont Symphony.
Douglas Locascio, general manager of the Crawdads, agreed. He said the honor would not surprise locals, but he hopes it brings people from other areas to visit. “Obviously this ranking is something I think that everyone in Hickory already knew but it's great to see the recognition from outside,” Locasio said. “I’m excited about what the future has in store for Hickory.”
The honor drives home why Jon Carfagno, executive director of the Hickory Museum of Art, enjoys working in Hickory. “We continue to feel so grateful to live in a community that truly values the power of art and creativity, which is reflected in the enormous support that our museum has received since its founding,” he said.
Most cities Hickory’s size don’t have a symphony of their own, said Ingrid Keller, the executive director of the symphony. “Hickory is an affordable and convenient place to live with some great cultural offerings and features for a small city,” Keller said.
That affordability brings businesses here, as well as people, Keisler said. Community leaders have been working to make the area enticing, she said. “The reason why I say it’s not a surprise is over the last 10-plus years our community, community leaders and citizens have worked extremely hard at improving quality of living,” Keisler said.
The ranking doesn’t just highlight Hickory but the entire metropolitan statistical area as a whole, which Keisler welcomed. “It’s celebrating our region,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in regionalism so the fact that the whole area was celebrated is special.”
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