We’ve got what Kiplinger says it takes.
The question is, when will we be willing to use it?
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine lists 10 Great Places to Live for 2013 in its online editions.
What do those places have that we don’t? Less than you might imagine.
Santa Fe, N.M.; Anchorage, Alaska; Billings, Mont.; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Burlington, Vt., have great natural beauty that lovers of the great outdoors would drool for.
Hello Kiplingers, may I introduce you to Santa Rosa Island? Fort Pickens? The sunset over Escambia Bay?
Columbia, S.C., Little Rock. Ark., and Anchorage have a passel of government-based jobs that provide a fairly stable employment base to weather economic swings.
Um, Kiplingers, have you met the slew of state, local and federal government workers -- including those related to the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs payrolls -- who populate our citizenry?
I mean, seriously, just look at how parking opens up downtown on a government holiday to know the impact those jobs have here.
Dubuque, Iowa, and Ithaca are touting their re-emerging, mixed-use downtowns. even Morgantown, W.Va., is trying to get in on that action.
Kiplinger’s, may I take for you a stroll on one of America’s Great Streets, Palafox Street?
A vibrant arts and culture scene are selling points for Dubuque, Santa Fe, Burlington, and Columbia.
We’ve got that -- and then some. We are a city of 50,000 souls with five celebrity chefs. Put that in your gumbo and eat it.
Morgantown, Billings, Columbia, Bryan-College Station, Texas, and Burlington say top-notch health care providers and research facilities make them kings of the hill.
You may have a point there. When it comes to care, we have an embarrassment of riches. But research, well, we’re lacking there. The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is the strong asset in terms of intellectual capital this community has to offer, and we do precious little to nurture its growth institutionally.
Which brings us to one of two things these 10 great places to live have all over us: Universities and colleges in their city centers.
Even the place I grew up calling Morganhole is centered around its institution of higher learning. Our university is shunted off in the woods north of Nine Mile Road and over the years, efforts to integrate the University of West Florida into downtown have faltered, to put it politely.
Pensacola State College’s main campus is in the North Ninth Avenue corridor, closer to the mall than to the city center.
Kiplinger’s loves cities that embrace education and the intellectual resources that go along with it in the civic and metaphorical heart, something Pensacola still struggles with.
And clearly that warm embrace pays off. Because the median incomes in Kiplinger’s Great Places to live have median incomes from $37,899 (College Station) to $74,271 (Anchorage).
Ours is $28,325. And only about 23 percent of Escambia County residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Investing in education means more than volunteering to read to a classroom once a week.
It means valuing learning for its own sake, as well as for the job opportunities it creates. It means seeing companies that are at their base intellectual -- like AppRiver, Avalex, IMS Services, and IHMC -- as being as worthwhile as jobs in a candy company or a fish hatchery. It means making jobs in the service industry one of the rungs of the economic ladder -- not the whole foundation on which the ladder stands.
See until we bring that number up, we won’t make it out of the ranks of the also-rans.