Monday, April 4, 2011

Two Lists - Two Perspectives

Lately I’ve heard more about a recent story in Moneywatch (based on a Gallup Survey) than I have about a CNN story (based on a budget travel study). As a glass is half-full person, I’m compelled to write about one story more than the other. The Moneywatch story covered the results of a recent Gallup Survey of 350,000 Americans about their state of happiness – asking questions about how they view their social and work experiences, health, and overall well-being. The Utica-Rome area ranked 10th lowest out of 188 metropolitan areas. It can’t be all about the weather and the unemployment rate is a full half percent below the national average and we’re in the top half of the 372 largest metro areas in terms of lowest unemployment rates. My guess is, like with most things, it’s all in how you look at it.

Having moved around the country a bit (New York is the fourth state we’ve called home), I understand that every place has a downside. For example, I absolutely loved living in the Denver/Boulder area with the Rocky Mountains, 300 days of sunshine, and vibrant big city feel. However, I didn’t like the overwhelming growth, traffic, school class sizes, living in drought conditions, and the fact that Albuquerque was the nearest metropolitan area – six hours away. Every place has its downsides. To that point, every area has its upsides. The CNN story listed the top 15 places kids should visit before they’re 15. While I’ve seen many of these places on other lists (e.g., places to see before you die, etc.), what I noticed on this particular list was that more than half are within a seven-hour drive and 5 (a full 1/3) are within a five-hour drive of Oneida County.

The items in the top 15 related to history are enhanced by additional places within a few minutes or few hour drive, including, revolutionary and civil war sites, the Erie Canal, women’s history, and interesting local lore. The natural wonders sites are also complemented by the amazing Adirondack and Catskill mountain ranges that sit in our own backyard along with the Atlantic Ocean and eastern shoreline a few hours away. We have the full four seasons, unlike one-third of the country that suffers through something like winter, but really it’s more like a long cold, windy, slushy season with a few days of snow. It’s the real deal here where you can embrace the winter months and fully invest in winter activities (granted, this was a long winter to be sure). Although it’s often mentioned that the 4-5 hour drives to Toronto, Montreal, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are great, we don’t talk as much about the fact that the area has such good schools, amazing performing arts offerings, and very little traffic that helps reduce the stress of daily living in the Mohawk Valley.

Wherever you live is also about community and feeling connected with others – something this area has in abundance. The sense of community in this area is quite remarkable and takes shape through the generous and giving spirit that makes for such great turnouts at local fundraising events like the Greatest Heart Run/Walk and large community events like the Boilermaker. And while we have many challenges to overcome, unlike many areas, this is one that is small enough that you can get involved and feel like you’re making a difference – and at the end of the day, that's likely toward the top of the list for most people. If you have any comments on this post, contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.