ELKO – A quarter-century after being named “The Best Small Town in America,” Elko has earned the title of best city to live in the state of Nevada.
An article posted last week by the website 24/7 Wall St., and reprinted in USA Today, lists the “best” city in each state. Elko was selected because of its high household income, low cost of living, and rapid population growth.
“While quality of life is subject to a range of factors – close relationships and personal health being among the most important – the local community and environment can also have a meaningful impact,” states the Jan. 2 article by Samuel Stebbins and Grant Suneson.
24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of more than two dozen measures, and applied it to all population centers with at least 8,000 residents.
The article lists Elko’s population at 20,078, up 11 percent over the past five years. Median home value is listed at $215,100 and median household income at $76,826.
“Elko has by far the highest median household income of anywhere in Nevada,” states the article. “Although Elko residents tend to earn a relatively high amount, it is the least expensive place to live in Nevada. The cost of living in Elko is just 83.9 percent of what it costs in the typical American city.”
The authors also claim Elko is the fastest-growing place in Nevada “by a wide margin. In the past seven years, its population increased 18.7 percent to just over 20,000 people. During that same timeframe, no other place in the state had a population increase of more than 10 percent.”
The study used a complex mix of data, penalizing cities for high poverty rates and drug overdose mortality. It also analyzed the population-adjusted number of entertainment and cultural venues such as restaurants and museums, based on the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns data set.
Elko Mayor Reece Keener saw the designation as a good sign for the year ahead.
“This USA Today ranking confirms what we already knew: Elko is tops for quality of life. Gold mining, our anchor industry, provides incredible employment opportunities to our workforce. We also have an abundance of outdoor recreation, and we’ll see the new Elko Sports Complex moving toward completion in 2019,” Keener said. “I also expect to see new, national retailers locating into the old Kmart property Elko later this year. All of the leading economic indicators point to a prosperous 2019 for our community.”
This is not the first time Elko has been distinguished above other towns. In 1993, author Norman Crampton published the first edition of “The 100 Best Small Towns in America” and Elko topped the list.
At that time, Elko’s population was listed at 14,736 people and growing, thanks to a robust gold mining industry.
“Gold mining, gambling, cattle ranching — on paper, at least, Elko looks as if it could be a ripsnorting little piece of the Old West,” Crampton wrote.
Some of the factors he considered included scenic location, social diversity, education level, school spending and quality of newspapers.
Farther back in history, noted news broadcaster Lowell Thomas called Elko “the last real cowtown in the American West.” The county’s vast rangelands gained fame in the 1940s when Hollywood stars such as Bing Crosby, Joel McCrea and Jimmy Stewart purchased ranches here. Crosby went on to be named the honorary mayor of Elko.
Not everyone has agreed with outsiders’ views of the city and county. After Crampton’s book was published, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City ran an Associated Press article titled “Elkoans flattered – and flabbergasted – by rating.
Mayor Jim Polkinghorne was one of the people contacted by Crampton during his survey in 1992.
“I thought no way in the world we’d come out number 1,” the mayor said.