Salmon Arm slips in magazine's Best Places to Live rankings
A significant change in one category was the catalyst for Salmon Arm's substantial decline in the annual MoneySense Magazine's Best Places to Live in Canada edition.
Last year, Salmon Arm 's ranking was 61 out of 190 cities rated across the country. Salmon Arm was also fifth -highest ranked city in B.C., behind Saanich, Victoria, Kamloops and Vancouver and beat out our southern neighbours, Kelowna and Vernon.
This year is a different story. Salmon Arm has dropped to 122 out of 200 cities, with Kamloops, Kelowna and Vernon all ranking above us.
Last year, Salmon Arm also made the list as the 13th best place to retire in the country. In 2013, the city did not even make that list.
The main question is why the sudden slide in the rankings?
MoneySense senior editor David Hodges attributed the drop to one major factor — population growth. "When you are in the middle of the pack, the cities are packed so highly together in the rankings that a change in one category has the potential to make a major shift," says Hodges.
Salmon Arm's population change for the 2012 ranking was an increase of 9.1 per cent. The growth curve was dramatically lowered in 2013. While there was still a population increase of 2.39 per cent, this indicates a significant slip.
"A slip like this shows a community that isn't growing as robustly as it was and certainly not as robustly as communities in Alberta. We have seen a real rise with the Albertan cities and their economic growth has brought people into those areas," says Hodges.
Mayor Nancy Cooper says she is increasingly aware of the rise in "single-parent" families in the city — not because people are getting divorced, but because one parent is going to work in Alberta or Northern B.C. to work, while the other spouse remains in Salmon Arm.
She also agrees the community is losing young families.
"I've just said goodbye to friends with three children under age 6 who are moving to Edmonton. They say they hope to come back some day, but right now, for economic reason it's pretty tough."
Cooper says that's why the city is working on the five-year economic development action plan. "We want better paying jobs, we're really trying," she said, pointing to the expanded college initiative as a project with the potential to bring additional well-paying jobs to the city. "We need to stem this flow."
When readers were asked on the Observer's Facebook page why they thought Salmon Arm had slipped so significantly, two themes were clear — a lack of shopping and jobs.
"No good jobs, local merchants gouging us, and if you are lucky enough to own your house it's likely not worth even close to what you paid for it because nobody wants to move here!" writes Michelle Moore.
Candace Lea Howes is one of those who moved away from the city.
"We left in Oct 2012. No good paying jobs and tired of having to drive to Vernon to do my shopping!" she wrote.
"No decent jobs, lacking lots of shopping choices and those that are present cost extra. Best way to go broke is to work and spend in Salmon Arm only," writes Rachel Ross.
The MoneySense rankings themselves have nothing to do with retail opportunities in each community.
The closest thing to a retail category would be looking at the percentage of people who drive new cars.
"Shopping doesn't factor into our methodology," says Hodges. "So it has nothing to do with how a city might place in our rankings."
Salmon Arm saw a rise in the magazine's rankings for housing prices, which means housing prices are becoming more affordable.
But this has a flip-side. If people purchased homes at higher prices, the value of their homes has likely dropped, leaving them worth less than they paid.
Household income has remained relatively constant from last year, with the average household bringing in a total income of $65,146. This income level puts the city in the lower quadrant of the rankings.
This was also noted in the Facebook responses, including this one from Dani Gratto: "Add to that the fact that jobs around here don't pay nearly as much as they would in bigger cities as well. I literally make half of what I would in the same profession in Calgary or Vancouver."
Calgary was the top scoring city in the magazine rankings for the first time.