The 2021 list of top counties in the US is here! Learn more about what the Community Index is and what the 2021 list is all about here. Below is our list of the top 10 small counties (population under 100k) across the US, that we ranked using indicator data to measure community vibrancy and economic success.
1. Casper, Cheyenne and Laramie, WY (Converse, Carbon, and Albany Counties)
Neighboring Converse, Carbon, and Albany Counties are number one on our list of small-sized places. Home to both Medicine Bow National Forest and the University of Wyoming, the counties score high on sustainability, talent, and place. Wide open spaces paired with thriving downtowns and innovative, tight-knit communities make this region a truly special place to call home.
Outside of Waterloo, Iowa, Grundy County makes a top small-sized spot for its excellent score across all indicators, including scoring in the top ten percent in talent. Part of the Cedar Valley Regional Partnership, Grundy County works hard to recruit and retrain businesses, with leading industries in manufacturing, food processing, logistics, agri-based biotechnology, finance, and information technology. Grundy also boasts a popular County Fair each year.
3. Middlebury, VT (Addison County)
Quintessential Vermont, Addison County is home to bustling main streets in Middlebury, Bristol, and Vergennes; charming small New England towns; and access to the Adirondack and Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. The county also plays host to Middlebury College. Addison scores in the top ten percent in talent and sustainability, and is above average in every other category.
Just outside Duluth, Lake County, Minnesota makes our number five spot of small-sized counties, with above average scores across the board. With the Superior National Forest and the Great Lake itself as picturesque backdrop, Lake County is home to four seasons of beauty and outdoor recreation. The region’s Chamber of Commerce boasts a “diverse business base [that] helps maintain a healthy economic community.” The region manufactures backpacks and grapples; hosts two operating harbors used for Great Lakes shipping; and participates heavily in the mining, logging, and healthcare industries.
Williams County, North Dakota, is the second-fastest growing county in the United States. Scoring in the top ten percent in investment and diversity, the region also has above-average scores in sustainability and talent. With the natural beauty of the “Great Plains” states of North Dakota and neighboring Montana surrounding the region, it’s no surprise that the economy is largely based in agriculture and tourism.
6. Gunnison, CO (Gunnison County)
Gunnison ranks seventh on our list of top ten small counties, landing in the top ten percent on investment and sustainability. Surrounded by stunning natural beauty on every side, Gunnison is home to national wilderness areas, scenic byways, historic trails, and a state park. On top of the quality of life afforded by the natural environment, Gunnison also scores above average in the diversity and talent categories.
Hitting number eight on our list of small-sized counties, Steuben County, Indiana scores particularly well on sustainability. Industry is concentrated in manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and accommodation and food services. With its ideal location in the tri-state area, Steuben is a great place for businesses to thrive. Pokagon State Park and Lake James offer outdoor recreational opportunities; while small downtown retail centers and outlet malls offer shopping aplenty—something for everyone!
The number eight spot on the small county list is Blanco, Texas. Sitting about 50 miles from both San Antonio and Austin, residents can access vibrant cultural experiences within just a short drive. A “gem” of Texas Hill Country, Blanco County performed in the top ten percent on investment and diversity.
Belknap County, just north of Concord, New Hampshire, is surrounded by the idyllic White Mountain National Forest. The draw of Lake Winnipesaukee brings a heavy tourism flow in the spring and summer months, with skiers flocking to the mountains in the winter. Belknap scores in the top ten percent in sustainability, and gets high marks in every other category on our list.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains only 90 minutes from Atlanta, Habersham County is home to diverse and talented residents. With museums, parks, and historic districts, Habersham County attracts thousands of visitors each year. Clarkesville, the county seat, was recently designated a top small town for retirees by Rand-McNally. Main street investments in the seven municipalities in Habersham County have further added to the county’s high quality of place and attraction of residents of all ages.
Curious about where your community ranks? Check out the 2021 Community Index!
Wondering what to do to move your community up on the list? Get in touch!