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The 'Best Small Town' In America
 

The ‘Best Small Town’ In America
A national study of America’s small towns puts Greenville at the very top

Big things come in small packages, especially in a charming place called Greenville.

City residents already know it’s a great place to live and work. They’re proud of the historic ties that it has, which add to its appeal. Now they have even more to boast about – two "top 10" listings that place Greenville squarely in the No. 1 seat.

According to ePodunk Inc., the foremost place on both of its "Home Towns Index" and "Historic Small Town Index for Alabama" is Greenville.

"A great home town is a place with deep roots," says Brad Edmondson, vice president for content at ePodunk, which maintains detailed profiles on roughly 28,000 hometowns throughout the nation. "It has well-attended churches, lively places to meet, handsome historic buildings and lots of locally owned businesses. Residents are devoted to the ‘power of place’."

The first ePodunk Home Towns Index, released February 2001, reveals the hidden power of Greenville. A study team researched small towns in the 48 contiguous states, for the purpose of "seeking to bring attention to places that are off the beaten path, which ordinarily do not get media attention but are nevertheless exceptional," Edmondson explains.

While Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines "podunk" as a "small, unimportant, and isolated town," Edmondson takes exception with the terminology.

"As any podunker will tell you, there’s no such thing as a small, unimportant town," he says. "The spread of cell phones, Palm Pilots and the Internet could soon mean there will be no such thing as an isolated town – a development many of us find disheartening."

Yet for those who recognize the enchantment and comfort in living in a so-called podunk, it’s akin to holding a slice of Americana right in your hands.

Greenville’s lofty lead at the head of two lists was not merely a quirk or happenstance.

The hunt for viable statistics reached every city in the United States. Sources included the 1980 and 1990 U.S. Census Bureau Reports, the National Council of Churches and other major, comprehensive surveys. Yet, Edmondson notes that ePodunk also looked for indicators that do not ordinarily show up in surveys.

"We wanted to draw attention to places where the sense of civic life and the people’s commitment to their community is very strong," he adds.

On the heels of the listing came ePodunk’s listing of America’s Best Historic Small Towns. Greenville ranked at the top of Alabama’s list, which was based on four statistics to rank the historic character of small counties. These included the number of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places in a county; the size of National Register Historic Districts in a county; the age of a county’s housing; and the number of county projects awarded a federal preservation tax credit.

Edmondson and his team analyzed the numbers for counties and places that are non-metropolitan or have fewer than 100,000 residents. The result was nearly 140 out-of-the-way destinations for historic travelers announced in June 2001.

The pair of citations has been big news for Greenville as media outlets and the Internet pour out the word of the findings.  Newspapers from all across the state have done stories, and inquiries about Greenville are coming in from all across the United States.

The Home Towns Index also drew attention from individuals and businesses seeking relocation information. Potential tourists are curious about the area’s historical offerings as well as other attractions in the city.

The Chamber is incorporating the two listings in its marketing efforts, which include billboards, brochures and bumper stickers.


By Sharyn Matthews

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