More and more people are turning away from the trends of a generation earlier and forgoing city life in order to find a place with a sense of community. They are looking for larger towns that offer many of the same amenities that could be found in cities - and be close enough to a major metropolitan area if they so desire to go for a visit - but without having the large tax burden that can come with city life. In turn, many businesses are recognizing that opening locations and establishments in these growing towns makes smart financial sense for them as well. One such community is Appleton, Wisconsin.
No less an authority than Money magazine named Appleton one of the ten best places to live only five years ago, but that is no secret to the people who live there. From the first record census of the area back in 1860, Appleton has been on an unprecedented growth spurt. Every decade saw a larger population than the one before, and several of those growth spurts came in double digit percentages. Today it is more than just a thriving suburb of Green Bay (and a further suburb of Milwaukee.) It is a bustling city all its own, with a population pushing 73,000 people.
There are many factors that go into a city being named to Money magazine's list beyond simple affordability. There also have to be reasons to live there, and Appleton has that covered in spades. With more than 300 Appleton, Wisconsin restaurants to choose from, it has one of the highest restaurants per capita for cities with similar populations. More importantly, it is not 300 plus versions of the same restaurant, but rather a diverse field covering everything from Latin fusion restaurants to authentic Italian and from barbeque to seafood. Many of these restaurants are independently owned by world class chefs who, like the rest of the population, decided to look for a simpler way to live, one that was more affordable and enjoyable. The big city's loss is Appleton's gain.
A crowning symbol of the growth in the area was the recent renaming of the Outagamie County Regional Airport to the Appleton International Airport. One of the leading convention destinations for communities of its size, this name reflects the growing importance of Appleton and the surrounding region in the world of international business and travel.
If you had to guess where the nation's first hydro-electric power station was built, which community had the nation's first electric street car company, or where the first place after the East Coast you could find incandescent lighting was, odds are you might be tempted to pick any number of different cities other than Appleton. Most certainly you would not imagine it was the correct answer for all three, but 162 years after its incorporation, Appleton, Wisconsin continues to be leading the region and leading the nation.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who specializes in covering the history, growth and future of small and mid-sized cities throughout the nation. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com