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US News voted Huntsville the best place to live in the United States in 2022-2023.
US News analyzed 150 large metropolitan areas in the U.S., paying attention to the quality of job markets, housing affordability, quality of life, desirability and net migration. Huntsville finished at the top of the list with a score of seven overall.
Following Huntsville was Colorado Springs, Colorado, in second place, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, in third.
Last year, Huntsville made it on the list in the third-place spot.
“Today, Huntsville residents pride themselves on being a nerdy bunch,” wrote the US News article by Anna Claire Vollers. “The metro area has the most educated population in the state, and a large portion of the population works in engineering and defense thanks to the large presence of NASA and the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal.”
Huntsville was founded in 1805 when Alabama was still part of the Mississippi Territory. In 1811, it was incorporated into a town. It served as the capital of Alabama for a brief period following the state’s incorporation in 1819.
After World War II, Huntsville grew due to the establishment of the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal and the growing defense industry. Now, it is the largest city in Alabama, after surpassing Birmingham in 2021, although Birmingham has a more populous metro area.
Cost of living and job opportunities
According to Vollers, Huntsville has a higher than average cost of living, though it is still more affordable than many major cities in the United States.
Huntsville’s average housing cost is $192,667, which is well below the national average of $507,800.
Huntsville is a hub for aerospace leaders like NASA and Boeing. It is home to many defense and technology industry job providers, such as the Redstone Arsenal, SAIC and Northrop Grumman.
It is also home to two public universities: Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
The average annual salary of the Huntsville worker is $58,730, above the national average of $56,310.
The rates of violent and property crime were lower than national rates in 2020.
Huntsville also has a thriving craft beer scene. The Huntsville downtown craft beer trail includes 10 stops at 10 different breweries, such as the popular Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer breweries.
Vollers said that over a quarter of Huntsville residents are below 24, like recent Auburn University graduate Jackson Keith. Keith moved to Huntsville to work in the aerospace industry in 2021.
“You don’t ever find yourself with nothing to do here, from the growing brewery scene to the outdoors,” said Keith. “Another good thing about this area is the job market. You’ll never not be able to find a job. Tons of people are moving in. Tons of new companies… It seems like everywhere I drive, there’s construction going on, which is a sign of a growing community.”
US News also ranked Huntsville 54th in Best Places to Retire and third in Cheapest Places to Live. It is 16th in Fastest-Growing Places.
Mayor Tommy Battle said he is not surprised about Huntsville’s ranking.
“We are the star of Alabama for a reason,” Battle said. “As more people discover what makes us the South’s best-kept secret, we take pride in our diverse community’s strength and authenticity. Rankings like these affirm our commitment to continuing to provide a healthy, thriving economy without losing our identity while also welcoming new citizens and businesses with open arms. Great things are happening in Huntsville.”
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