The New Buzz: Livability


St. Croix’s economic development guy remains a fast talker but feels slightly older with another birthday on the calendar. Many changes have been witnessed in a long career that predates laptops, personal computers, fax machines, cell phones, but not electricity. A denial was made about knowing Abraham Lincoln, even though Abe was rumored to have a nasty jump hook on the basketball court.

In the field of economic development there have been numerous changes, too. Back in the day, every community promoted a high quality of life (QOL) including the best fire department, school system, and main street entertainment district.

Alas, QOL yielded to a more modern term, Livability. And Livability spawned the Livability Index (LI), as launched by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The wealth and buying power of retirees continues to increase, causing AARP to be right in the middle of a new trend. LI may prove to be a useful resource for ‘seasoned citizens’ buying a second or third home in new areas, ideally where modern conveniences are abundant.

AARP launched its online and user friendly tool for individuals seeking a LI score by address, zip code, or community. The output is an overall livability score for a desired area. AARP says its LI is the first tool of its kind to measure livability broadly at the neighborhood level for the entire country, and it is intended to inform and encourage people to take action to make their communities more livable. AARP uses seven livability categories, including housing (affordability and access), neighborhood (access to life, work, and play), transportation (safe and convenient options), environment (clean air and water), health (prevention, access, and quality), engagement (civic and social engagement), and opportunity (inclusion and possibilities).

OK, OK. How did St. Croix Valley communities score? Have some fun and search favorite communities or zip codes at as the economic development guy wishes to remain somewhat neutral. In broader areas however, St. Croix County, Wisconsin scored a 55 out of 100, but directly across the river, Washington County, Minnesota earned a 60. Madison, Wisconsin had a nice round 66, but coveted Edina in Minnesota got a 60. Austin, Minnesota (home of Hormel) is scored at 54 and Austin, Texas (home of Hippies, Pickers, Slackers, and Geeks) is at 57. Web users could have fun with this tool.

Upon further thought, the economic development guy likes the science behind AARP’s system. Subjective quality of life promotions may have fallen by the wayside now that young families, working adults, and retirees can analyze communities and neighborhoods themselves. So can Hormel’ers and Hippies.