There’s no place like Vermillion to call home

There's no place like Vermillion to call home The article in the May 11 Wall Street Journal may be small. by David Lias The article in the May 11 Wall Street Journal may be small.

But it's providing huge dividends to Vermillion.

"This is something that the people who live here should be pretty proud about," said Craig Atkins, executive director of the Vermillion Development Company.

The Journal article, written by Danielle Reed, informs the paper's readers that if they are interested in finding a good place to live, there's an easy way on the Web to compare cities' vital statistics.

On, Reed writes, hit the "compare cities" link and check off the criteria that matter the most.

Reed looked for cities with school ratings above the national average, a cost of living index below the national average, and 175 to 224 sunny days per year.

Only 17 U.S. cities fit the bill. One of them is Vermillion.

A wonderful place to live

"This verifies a lot of things that a lot of people have talked about in terms of Vermillion being a great community to live in, its business opportunity, and it being an affordable place to live," Atkins said.

He called up on his computer and did his own exploring on the Web site.

"I did probably half a dozen different searches using different criteria, but always using the constant of communities under 10,000 people in size. Vermillion always came up with the highest group of matches," Atkins said. "That doesn't say that Vermillion is the top community, but it does say that you've got 20 communities that meet seven out of 10 criteria, so that was pretty encouraging."

The national publicity Vermillion has received, he added, is invaluable.

"The fact that the Wall Street Journal would arbitrarily go on to that site, and arbitrarily select that criteria and that Vermillion would pop up as one of 17 to meet all the criteria means quite a bit," he said.

"I think it's always refreshing to have an outside source document what you perhaps already feel about your community. I think you can visit with most anyone from Vermillion and they can start listing all the reasons why this is a wonderful place to live," Mayor Roger Kozak said. "When you have someone or some organization verify what you believe about your community, it's very gratifying to see that someone else has noticed all of the good things we have."

Attractive to all age groups

Kozak said Vermillion's high rating, when compared to other communities across the nation, will help lure people of all ages here. The presence of The University of South Dakota, he said, primarily may attract younger people here.

"There may be that young, aspiring male or female that wants to get an education or perhaps may even be looking for employment who would like to go to one of the best cities in the nation. Likewise, you can go to the other end of the spectrum and you can look to someone who is anticipating retirement," he said. "I think having Vermillion flash up on the screen at least gives people an opportunity to investigate the city further and really find out the many varied opportunities we have here � the churches, the schools, the university, and the parks that we have here."

He added that it's important that Vermillion promotes more than what lies within its city limits. He noted that there are several characteristics of the city's vicinity, from recreation areas to wide open spaces and clean air, that make Vermillion a great place to live.

Spreading the news

The small article may easily have been missed, even by die-hard readers of the Wall Street Journal. Community leaders plan to spread this bit of positive news.

Vermillion had already gained a bit of notoriety last year when its public school system was rated in the top 12 percent in the nation for academic performance.

"When that statement came out, that was a great marketing tool for Vermillion, and now we have this latest observation as well," said Jill LeCates, executive director of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce. "It just helps us show that Vermillion is a great place to live. We've got a lot of housing start-ups coming up, and there's a lot of potential for people who may be interested in moving here."

Independent observation bases its community rankings on a collection of data, including information it has gathered independently and Census Bureau figures.

"Communities always make the claim that they are one of the best places in the country to live in, but when you go onto a Web site that is totally independent, and we're not a member of anything that they belong to," Atkins said, "that really was kind of a neat thing. There are a lot of communities that would like to have that kind of publicity that is basically unsolicited, so that should speak highly for Vermillion."

John Paulson, CEO of Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus and president of the Vermillion Development Company, noted that the community's positive rating points out its potential for future growth.

"We have an opportunity to be focusing on the future by realizing that a lot has happened to give us the chance to look forward," he said. "We've got a great system in place for development with our business parks and city utilities and our other services that are being constantly improved and expanded."

Paulson noted the accomplishments of the university in recent years for continued growth and improvements in its facilities.

"I know there are a lot of things the county has planned with roads and related services. The new bridge over the Missouri River, I think, is a particularly important opportunity. We need to make sure that we use that as a way to reach out to the communities in Nebraska and serve them as neighbors."

A positive lifestyle

The Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus, he said, will have the opportunity to reach out and serve more patients and communities with new technology, programs and facilities which will help Vermillion become a medical center for the region.

City Manager Jeff Pederson said the Wall Street Journal article is a pleasant surprise. He added that it isn't difficult to believe the accuracy of the data.

"Personally, I think one of the nice things about Vermillion is the manageability of living here. Not only do we have a lot of wonderful amenities, but things are close at hand, meaning you don't have to live a fast-paced lifestyle to access things in the community," he said. "They are right here. Anybody who has spent a couple hours in a major city on the beltway or driving from the inner city to the suburbs can appreciate the pace of life in a place like Vermillion."

Paulson noted that it is particularly important in any community for citizens to have access to high quality health care.

"Health care is an attribute that makes Vermillion a perfect town to live in," he said. "We have great local primary care physicians who care for the whole family and other doctors who visit regularly to provide specialty services."

The availability of a full-service hospital, emergency care, long-term care facilities and home health and hospice programs, Paulson said, means the citizens of Vermillion can have all but a few of their health care needs met at home.

Cost of living factors play a major role in Vermillion's high ranking, Pederson said. This bit of data can be cast out nationwide to bring more people to the city in the next decade or two.

"Growth involves preparing the community for more folks to live here, but it also means enticing them. I think that's where the cost of living factor is important in terms of promoting the quality of life in Vermillion," Pederson said. "People pay a lot of attention to the economic component of that issue, and I think that's just a wonderful factor to tout in our favor as we recruit business, industry, students, you name it. "There are very few people who have the luxury of living life without concern about how far their financial resources will go," he added, "and for Vermillion to rate that well nationally gives us a leg up on that issue."

Data is recruitment tool

Atkins agrees with LeCates. Vermillion popping up on computer screens as one of the best U.S. cities will help local business recruitment efforts.

"If I was going to talk to a company about why Vermillion is a good place to set up or expand a business, we'll need to get into some recruitment activities," he said. "We have to go out and verify and document the things that we are saying, and in a way, this comes out and does it for us independently. We don't have to go out and try to prove that these things are facts.

"The facts came back from this independent source that in Vermillion the cost of living is affordable, there is low crime, good education, good climate, a good work force � all of the things that a company might look at," Atkins added.

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