After analyzing thousands of data points, across more than 1,500 cities, the City of Lacey has earned a spot on Money’s “100 Best Places to Live in America” list. Money ranked Lacey as the second-best place to live in Washington State and the 75th best place to live in the United States. Area leaders attribute Lacey’s ranking to a variety of factors, including, friendliness to business, a strong public-school system, the natural beauty of the region, city planning, and collaboration between public agencies.
Money’s methodology was multifaceted and evaluated almost 160,000 data points across 1,796 cities. Money only considered areas with a population of at least 50,000 and paid particular attention to categories such as economic health, cost of living, ethnic and economic diversity, education, safety, and regional amenities.
“It didn’t happen by accident,” says City of Lacey Mayor, Andy Ryder. “Lacey received the honor due to many years of hard work and planning from not only our council, but the council and staff before us.”
Michael Cade, executive director of the Thurston Economic Development Council, attributes Lacey’s ranking to consistent city planning over the last three decades. Cade says Lacey has created strategic long-term economic development plans over the years that targets areas for job growth and urban development.
“It’s not often that you have a city that is that proactive about economic development in a very positive, strategic sense,” says Cade. “It’s not jobs for job’s sake or growth for growth’s sake. It’s looking at what they have as an entrepreneurial community and ensuring that they have every opportunity to be successful here.”
Once a collection of vacant buildings, Lacey has also actively revitalized the Woodland Square business neighborhood. Now dubbed “The Hub at Lacey Midtown,” the city worked with MJR Development to restore the area and make it an attractive home for businesses, government offices, and higher education, including South Puget Sound Community College and Saint Martin’s University campuses.
“Today, I think the Hub at Lacey Midtown is 95 percent leased and they’ve done a really good job at ensuring that it’s viewed as a destination place for employers to go to,” says Cade. “So, that’s been very good for the City of Lacey. They were aggressive in working with a developer to do that work.”
Debra Clemens, superintendent of North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS), partially attributes Lacey’s ranking to several educational achievements within the school district. This includes a high growth rate in Math and English Language Arts, a rising graduation rate, collaboration with the City on major construction projects, and a commitment to student and public safety.
“We’re really proud the city received this designation and we feel like we’re a part of the reason why,” says Clemens. The good communication and collaborative spirit between the school district and the City filters through many joint projects, which definitely has a positive impact on the community.
Clemens says that NTPS has seen an upward trend in graduation rates over the past five years. Timberline High School’s four-year graduation rate is at 95 percent, which is an all-time high for the school and well above the Washington State average graduation rate of around 80 percent.
In addition, NTPS collaborates with the City of Lacey to provide school resource officers throughout the district. These officers ensure student safety and provide opportunities for mentorship. “Working with the school resource officers, we can do a lot of preventative work. And when issues do come up or there’s an emergency within our community, we already have such excellent communication established with the City,” says Clemens.
Daryl Murrow, past president of South Sound Chamber of Commerce, says that because of the lower cost of living compared to Seattle and Tacoma, the supportive business climate, and the natural beauty of the area, Lacey is appealing for families because there is so much to do both professionally and recreationally.
Lacey’s centralized location and dedicated green spaces have especially set the city apart with an extensive public park and trail system. Located an hour away from both the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountain Range, and bordering the Puget Sound, Lacey offers opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking, and other outdoor activities year-round.
Murrow also applauds not only Lacey’s economic planning, but also the consideration for future generations. “They have reserved land for parks that aren’t even developed yet,” explains Murrow. “So, they definitely plan ahead for future generations. I think they take that very seriously and it’s not an afterthought. They are constantly looking at the generations ahead.”
For Mayor Ryder, Lacey’s ranking is a public recognition of the efforts that have been underway for years. Ryder says that Money’s designation is a sign that the city is on the right path, and as one of the fastest growing cities in the state, he is excited to see what the future holds for Lacey.
“I was born and raised right here in Lacey,” says Ryder. “I bought my childhood home, and am raising my family in the same house I grew up in. I’ve known for a long time how beautiful this area is and how much it means to my family and me. Every day, I try to continue that experience for other families, as well. We don’t want to lose sight of what has made us so attractive. That takes a lot of communication and a lot of City planning and I think we do that really well in Lacey.”
To learn more about Lacey programs, projects, and amenities, visit the City of Lacey website.