Communities are always looking for an advantage when they are trying to grow their business roster, and Stamford business leaders are reveling after a California-based real estate company ranked the city as the top place to live in Connecticut.
Movoto Real Estate, an online real estate brokerage based in San Mateo, Calif., has ranked Stamford as the best place to live -- in communities with populations over 10,000 -- followed by Bethel, Danbury, Middletown, Ridgefield, West Hartford, Darien, Groton, Westport and Newtown.
Rankings like this, with comments about the school system, crime rate, income and home prices, can be a boon for a city or town's image and its ability to attract business and residents, according Barbara Seiter, executive vice president of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce.
"Businesses considering a community like Stamford know the quality of employment that is going to be there -- that with the people who can afford to live in Stamford it means they will find an educated workforce," she said, adding that the city always fares well in terms of crime rates. "It bodes well for the city environment. People want to be safe."
"We have theaters and movies and 80 restaurants in downtown alone," she said. "We're a destination for young people -- in the 23-40 age group, which is why those apartments are being built and occupied. You get an energy in the city -- where people want to live. Seventy percent of people who live downtown have lived there five years."
Stamford Mayor David Martin said he has always been a booster of the city, and he is heartened to hear about Movoto's report.
"It's great that someone independent of Stamford recognizes our greatness and vitality," he said. "We're the safest city in New England, and our crime rate is half the second-closest city in Connecticut. I don't know if the number one ranking is most important. I believe the things that got you to number one are most important."
Movoto based its rankings on data gleaned from various sources, including the FBI for crime information and Yelp for amenities, according to spokesman Nick Johnson, who said Movoto is affiliated with 5,000 real estate agents who receive referrals from the business, and they share the commission when a home is sold to a Movoto client.
"It's unbiased. We try to be a resource for people moving to a particular place. It's based on what people say they want in a community," he said, noting that there are 42 communities in the state with a population of 10,000 or more. "We translate it all into an algorithm and push go."
The Stamford Museum and Nature Center, amenities, education system and a median household income 89 percent higher than the rest of the state and a median house price of $574,900 -- far higher than the rest of Connecticut -- all were mentioned in the Movoto report, as well as a low crime rate.
"With just 1,934 crimes per 100,000 people, Stamford came in as one of the safest communities in our ranking-great news for residents and commuters alike, and there are plenty of each," said Movoto in its report. "After all, Stamford is home to four Fortune 500 companies and nine Fortune 1000 companies, making it the largest financial district in the New York Metro outside of New York City."
The report is another vehicle to get the word out about Darien -- Stamford's neighbor to the east -- and its offerings, said Carol Wilder Tamme, president of the Darien Chamber of Commerce, commenting on how the business community has thrived over the past several years.
The Movoto report should be a useful tool for individuals, families and businesses contemplating a move to Darien, she said.
"I think that real estate people who are associated with Movoto will use this to promote the town and the property they are representing, Tamme said. "People want to live near where they do business. It might be an influencer on making a decision about opening a business here."
While Stamford, the second-biggest city in Fairfield County is the home to myriad company headquarters, Bethel, one of its smaller communities, offers some of the same qualities, according to Movoto.
"Bethel came in near the top of our list for its high number of amenities and for its overall high score in quality of life," Movoto said. "This was mostly due to its low student-teacher ratio, just 13 to 1, and high median rent price of $1,168, which indicates the area's desirability."
It also didn't leave out Dr. Mike's Ice Cream Shop and the curly fries at the Sycamore Drive-In.
"What makes Bethel so desirable? Well, the weather may have something to do with it," Movoto said. "With an average summer temperature of 68 and an air quality score of 35, Bethel was one of our highest ranking in terms of weather."
"Anytime anyone recognizes you as a top place to live, it's good for economic development," she said. "The fact that they highlighted our school system is good. I wasn't surprised (by the ranking). Bethel is a hidden gem. We have great places to shop and multiple business parks. It's great for business development. Hopefully, when people see it they'll come to visit our downtown."
Danbury's position on the list made it a sweep of the top three spots by Fairfield County communities, and Bruce Tuomala, its economic development director, said it indicates the city's success in attracting businesses with the help of its amenities and its affordable housing.
"A lot of companies are concerned about a lack of affordable housing for their employees," he said, commenting that the report confirms the city's pro-business platform. "Our (commercial) lease rates are more than competitive with down-county and Westchester County in New York."
He also touted the benefits of Danbury Fair Mall and Western Connecticut State University.
"Danbury may be best known for being the home of Western Connecticut State University -- or for its rich history in the hat industry," Movoto said. "Danbury ranked highly in our analysis for its overall rank in quality of life, mostly due to a student-teacher ratio of just 13 to 1 and some of the higher median rent and home prices in the state; for its good score in weather; and for its high number of amenities."
Like Tuomala, Stephen Bull, president of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, was not surprised by the city's ranking.
"It validates what we've known living here in northern Fairfield County. The cost of living and price of doing business is lower. I took it (the report) as pretty accurate. Danbury and Bethel -- it's a great place to live and work and for business," said Bull, whose chamber includes nearly 1,400 members in 10 communities. "Who would have thought that we'd be building 3,800 high-end units at The Reserve."