Town officials took less than 36 hours to put plans in motion to celebrate being named Money magazine’s No. 1 place to live in the United States, from organizing a party to replacing outdated welcome signs.
This year’s rankings focuses on small towns while other years are devoted to bigger cities.
Apex was No. 9 on the small town list in 2013. But this year it took the top spot after the magazine crunched data on the economy, real estate, taxes, safety and health and then dispatched a reporter to the town to get a sense of intangibles, such as traffic, parks and community spirit.
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The cover features a family from Apex, and an accompanying story and video tout the town’s character, parks, affordable housing and proximity to Research Triangle Park and area universities.
“The community is friendly, and there are a variety of activities for residents to enjoy, from the youngest to the oldest,” the magazine said.
Town officials, as well as many residents and business leaders, were giddy Monday when the news broke, taking to social media to praise their town.
Apex Mayor Bill Sutton and other officials said the distinction could bring new residents and jobs to town. When talking to media outlets, he talked about trying to recruit new businesses.
“We know we can get people to come live here, and that’s fine,” he said. “But we would like people to come do business here. It’s not only a great place to live, it’s a great place to do business.”
This year’s list considered towns with populations up to 50,000. Apex has a population of 42,000. Its downtown has flourished, and new parks and roads have been built as new shopping centers have opened on the outskirts of town. The town is expected to double in size in 15 years if growth continues at the current rate.
Joanna Helms, the town’s economic development director, said Monday the town is actively recruiting several businesses.
“I’m sending them links to this story, hoping that’s the tipping point,” she said. “Because the kind of companies we want in Apex, they want a high quality of life for their employees.”
Shannon Flaherty, president of the Apex Chamber of Commerce, said existing businesses will benefit from the new residents and visitors the magazine listing could bring.
“When you have folks moving in, and coming to Apex, that increases their sales and profitability,” she said.
After Apex ranked No. 9 in 2013, Apex put up six signs on roads around town to brag about the honor. Those signs didn’t last long.
By Monday afternoon, officials had begun forming plans to take down the signs and update the ranking. Town leaders might also soon decide to add one or two more such signs.
Stacie Galloway, the town’s public information officer,. said the town likely will put a wrap around the signs with the new honor, rather than replace them. The cost of that work wasn’t immediately known, nor was the timeline to get it done.
Tuesday night, when the council gathered for a regularly scheduled meeting, they unanimously approved a $20,000 budget for a victory party.
The party is scheduled Sunday, Oct. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Apex town campus on Hunter Street, where Town Hall and a recreation center are located.
This year’s party will be called Peak-a-Palooza. The 2013 shindig was called Party in the Peak.
Peak-a-Palooza will have music, food trucks, bounce houses and game booths sponsored by local churches and civic groups, Galloway said.
The town will also have at least one of the new “Best Place to Live” road signs at the party for people to take pictures with.
“Lots of people posed with the sign during the last party,” Galloway said in an email. “So we’ll have those up again as well. I even had a resident call me after the signs were posted to ask where she could find one. She wanted to take a picture with it to use as their family’s Christmas card.”
Not everyone on the Town Council was on board with the plans for the party. Council member Bill Jensen said he was considering voting against spending taxpayer money on the party because he felt it a waste of money.
“It doesn’t benefit most people here,” he said. The 2013 party attracted about 7,000 guests, town officials said.
Jensen ultimately went along with the plan after Town Manager Bruce Radford told the council he expects to recoup much of the $20,000 through sponsorships. He said he needs the money now to begin putting down deposits to start making reservations.
The magazine honor comes at a time when Apex is in the midst of a rebranding effort.
Tuesday, the town decided to hold a town-wide contest soliciting new logos for the town. The logo will go on letterhead, the town website, local water towers and other town property.
Officials also are considering painting the No. 1 accolade on the water towers, Galloway said, although there is no final decision yet. The town already has had plans to repaint its water towers, which have the town slogan, “The Peak of Good Living.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran