Study finds Columbia is financially fit

Bloomington/Normal, Ill. tops InCharge Institute's study of 314 U.S. metropolitan areas.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Columbia ranked as one of the country’s most “financially fit” metropolitan areas in a new study conducted by the InCharge Institute of America.

The study examined how well 314 U.S. metropolitan areas measured up in promoting financial fitness for their citizens. The criteria for financial fitness included real personal disposable income, employment opportunities, creditworthiness, levels of savings and refinancing activity.

The InCharge Institute is a non-profit organization specializing in personal finance education, research and credit counseling. Spokesman Brent Gilroy said there was no formal request for the study but many mayors and officials were curious how their cities compared to others financially.

The study broke cities into three population categories. Columbia ranked ninth among those with a population less than 200,000. Bloomington/Normal, Ill., Sioux Falls, S.D., and Rochester, Minn., ranked first through third in that category, respectively.

Gilroy said the results are good news for Columbia. “We’re hoping that the people near the top will look at it as an affirmation that something is being done right locally.”

Mary Wilkerson, vice president of marketing at Boone County National Bank, was not surprised by the results.

“My first thought is that this really makes sense, because we’re a highly educated community,” Wilkerson said. “When you think of people who are financially fit, they tend to be people who are educated.”

Wilkerson also said area banks have done well because the community is growing and that the success of banks largely stems from the community.

“Banks are very much part and parcel with the success of community,” she said.

Wilkerson said revenue and net earnings for Boone County National Bank were strong last year and that mortgage refinancing has been extraordinary because of low interest rates. Both factors contribute to Columbia’s successful economy.

Don Laird, president of Columbia’s Chamber of Commerce, had not reviewed the study but said employment opportunities, one of the criteria for financial fitness, probably had a positive effect on Columbia’s ranking.

“Overall our unemployment rate is fairly low, and one of the lowest in the country,” Laird said.

In an e-mail response to the Missourian, Genalee Alexander noted that Columbia typically does well in studies comparing it to other cities. Alexander is a spokeswoman for Regional Economic Development Inc., a company that promotes economic expansion in Columbia and Boone County. “The fact that our citizens fared well in all five categories of this particular study shows a well-rounded financial picture, which can largely be attributed to the quality and diversity of the employment opportunities our residents enjoy,” Alexander said.

Cities with major state universities did well in all three population categories. Also notable was the fact that half the cities in the three ‘top 10’ lists were Midwestern or Upper Midwestern states.

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