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March 4, 2013

Forbes: Warren still ‘miserable’

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

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Forbes: Warren still ‘miserable’
Warren was recently named the seventh “most miserable” city in the United States by Forbes magazine. Mayor Jim Fouts again blasted the magazine, itself, as “miserable.”

WARREN — They say misery loves company, and Warren has again found itself in the unenviable company of other American cities dubbed the “most miserable” in the land by Forbes magazine.

This year, Forbes ranked the Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills Metropolitan Division, as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the seventh most-miserable “city” in the United States.

The Forbes report, published Feb. 21, showed no love for the state of Michigan and the rest of the Midwest. The magazine listed Detroit as the nation’s most-miserable locale and Flint as the second-most-miserable place. Rockford, Ill., Chicago, and Modesto, Calif., rounded out the top-five.

Warren ranked 10th on the Forbes list in 2012.

Forbes senior editor Kurt Badenhausen said the magazine looked at nine factors for the 200 largest metropolitan areas in the United States last year, including crime, home prices, taxes, unemployment and foreclosures. “Less weighty” factors affecting quality of life, including commute times and weather, were also considered.

Reader feedback led the magazine to drop political corruption and the level of pro sports success from its list of factors for 2013. But a new metric, net migration, was included in the methodology for the first time.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who was sharply critical of last year’s rankings, blasted the newest list as a “misinformed analysis.”

“They’ve used flawed data, flawed statistics, and it’s abundantly clear to me that the writer from Forbes doesn’t understand the geographic and economic situation in Michigan,” Fouts said.

The report citied a precipitous 53 percent drop in the metro division’s home prices over the last five years.

But Fouts said prices in Warren proper fell less sharply than in other neighboring communities included in the defined metro area.

The mayor also said businesses, including General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, agreed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Warren, and that the city’s voters approved three millages in as many years to support local services.

“If we were a miserable city — and they say the Warren metro area — then we wouldn’t have all the economic development we have,” Fouts said. “If we were a miserable city, we wouldn’t be passing millages by a two-thirds vote.

“The only thing that’s miserable is Forbes magazine and their convoluted analysis,” Fouts said.

Beyond Warren’s borders but well within the defined Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills metro area, those with an interest in the region’s collective state of mind said things aren’t exactly miserable where they’re at.

Eva Morrow, an associate broker with Max Broock Realtors, said the housing market is especially strong in Troy. She cited historically low interest rates, the appeal of Troy’s schools and a shrinking inventory of quality homes as factors contributing to a market that’s “through the roof.”

“Troy is probably the hottest market, even hotter than Birmingham right now,” Morrow said. “When a house goes on the market in Troy, it’s sold within 24 hours. That’s been my experience.”

Glenn Lapin, an economic development specialist for the city of Troy, said commercial development in the Big Beaver corridor and elsewhere is going strong.

“We’re seeing a lot of activity now, particularly retail,” Lapin said. “It’s still very attractive for national retailers and others who want to be on the corridor.”

Lapin said the city is also seeing “significant development” on Stephenson Highway and along Maple.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest and activity. We think it’s very positive,” Lapin said.

For more on the Forbes “America’s Most Miserable Cities” list, visit www.forbes.com

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.