Grand Rapids area ranked 13th despite being 'located off the beaten path'

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids may be "located a bit off the beaten path," but it still ranks as the nation's 13th best place to live, according to a ranking released by US News and World Report.

Meanwhile, another report by, says the Grand Rapids metro area had the third fastest growing metro economy in the nation last year behind San Jose and Austin, Texas.

The region's private sector economy grew at a 4.1 percent rate last year, according to statistics reaped from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total employment in all industries grew at a 3.8 percent rate, the report said.

Despite rising 4.8 percent in the last five years, paychecks in West Michigan did not rank as highly. The survey listed the average salary at $50,627, below the national average salary was listed at $52,458.

The U.S. News and World Report ranking focused more on lifestyle than federal employment statistics.

"This Michigan city avoids the traffic of larger cities, boasting a short average commute time," said the report released Friday, March 11. "Other perks include a low crime rate and high college readiness scores among schoolchildren.

The report also lauds West Michigan's relatively low cost of living, citing its median home price of $149,475 and median annual salary of $41,350. Unlike average salaries, median salaries mark the midpoint between the top half and lower half of the region's salaries.

"Grand Rapids' low cost of living means residents are only spending about 28 percent of the median annual income on necessary expenses," the report said, which put Grand Rapids between Minneapolis, Minn. and Sarasota, Fla. US News and World Report ranked Denver, Colo. and Austin, Texas, as the nation's best places to live.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.

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