Top cities for job seekers are bicycle friendly: a reflection on recent Stevens Point news

The city of Stevens Point recently reported that it was named one of the top 10 Wisconsin cities for job seekers. The ranking was performed by NerdWallet, a website which states that their mission is “to boost honesty and transparency in personal finance.” This ranking suggests that the policies of our city are providing economic benefits for our community.

A few months ago, Stevens Point received another honor. The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) named Stevens Point a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC). A PPSP blog post about the award mentions some of the economic advantages from being a BFC.

These two recognitions for our city led me to consider the following: Among the top Wisconsin cities for job seekers, how well are BFCs represented? If BFCs enjoy economic advantages, then one would expect a healthy representation of BFCs in this top-10 list.

According to their website, the NerdWallet ranking considered only cities with populations above 15,000 people. This limited their sample to 51 Wisconsin cities.

The LAB has named 12 BFCs in Wisconsin. One of these is a county and two of the cities have populations well under 15,000. One other city (River Falls) reports a population very close to 15,000 so I am unsure if NerdWallet considered that city or not in its rankings.  Thus, either 8 or 9 Wisconsin BFCs meet the criteria for NerdWallet’s rankings.

In the top 10 Wisconsin cities for job seekers, four of them are BFCs: Fitchburg (#2), Onalaska (#3), Stevens Point (#8), and Madison (#10).

The top 10 represents less than 20% of the Wisconsin cities ranked by NerdWallet, yet 44% or 50% (depending on River Falls’ inclusion) of Wisconsin’s ranked BFCs appear in this top 10. This overrepresentation is consistent with the notion that becoming bicycle friendly is a good recipe for economic growth.

The correlation I make here is not an attempt to imply a cause-and-effect relationship. However, it is reasonable to conclude that policies that tend to merit a BFC award also tend to make a city better for job seekers. BFCs are quality places to live, they attract young creative people, and they have healthier residents. These are all positives when an employer considers relocating to or expanding operations within a city.

It is often uncertain which policies will help a city grow economically. It is much easier to identify policies for becoming more bicycle friendly. The overrepresentation of BFCs among Wisconsin’s top cities for job seekers suggests that becoming more bicycle friendly is an excellent strategy towards creating a more robust local economy.

This is further evidence of the economic benefit Stevens Point enjoys due to its bronze-level BFC award and suggests an even better economic future through earning a silver or gold level of recognition.

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