Sammamish Named #1 Friendliest Town
Residents say Sammamish, Wash., is one friendly place. Wives in the suburban Seattle community have been known to swap recipes while their husbands borrow tools. Children play in the cul-de-sacs and walk to school by themselves if they live close enough.
“I have never lived in a community that’s more welcoming,” says Katy Chung, a six-year resident and a stay-at-home mother. “When we first moved here, neighbors came out of their homes to introduce themselves and give me delivery menus!” That friendliness is not unusual in Sammamish, adds Chung, who now joins her neighbors in welcoming newcomers to the neighborhood.
A bevy of economic and social factors have helped to strengthen the community spirit in Sammamish. Nearly 90% of households (including Chung’s) own their homes. Unemployment in the town of 46,700 people is a relatively miniscule 5% thanks to the major corporations headquartered nearby like Costco, Starbucks and Microsoft. Sammamish’s crime rate is roughly 90% lower than the national average and residents laud the quality of the local school system. Combine that with an array of events that offer residents the chance to connect regularly, including a weekly farmers market, the Sammamish Days and Nights Jazz Music Festival, Shakespeare in the Park, and an annual Arts Fair, and perhaps it’s not surprising that the city’s official motto is “Building Community TogetHer".
Recipe-sharing and hokey mottoes may sound more like an episode of “Leave It To Beaver” than reality, but it turns out a few bastions of neighborliness can be found across America. Sammamish tops Forbes’ inaugural list of America’s Friendliest Towns.
Behind The Numbers
Friendliness can mean different things to different people, and certainly what seems like a welcoming town to some can be unpleasant to others. Nonetheless, in any place, there are measurable factors that we believe are associated with a strong sense of community or that serve to promote good-feeling among neighbors.
We teamed up with Nextdoor.com, a San Francisco, Calif.-based social network for neighborhoods, to assess 500 small metro areas with populations between 5,500 and 150,000. Using data from the U.S. Census, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and City-Data.com, we ranked the towns based on four data points: percentage of owner-occupied homes (studies have shown a direct correlation between homeownership and neighborhood stability); the crime rate; charitable giving; and the percentage of college graduates (research has found that college-educated folks typically display more civic engagement, with higher rates of voting and volunteering). Nextdoor then conducted qualitative surveys among its membership in the towns that rated the highest to help finalize the ranking of the top 15.
Credit: Forbes, Morgan Brennan