Madison Heights ranked one of best cities for first responders

By: Andy Kozlowski, | Madison - Park News | Published July 12, 2017

MADISON HEIGHTS — Data analysts from the consumer research website GoodCall have compiled a report on the best cities in the country for first responders to live and work — and the city of Madison Heights is among the top 25.

Out of the 835 U.S. cities that were evaluated, Madison Heights ranked No. 24.

Factors included first responder salaries, job availability, affordability, amenities, educational attainment, and low unemployment and crime rates. The reason for the study is that first responders already have difficult jobs where they may experience a significant level of burnout, stress and even post-traumatic stress disorder, so finding well-paying jobs in good cities is important.

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This is the third year in a row that the study has been conducted. Smaller cities dominated the list, with the top 10 all having fewer than 100,000 residents, and the top 100 cities averaging about 55,000 residents. Bay City, Michigan, was No. 1, followed by Portage, Michigan; Easton, Pennsylvania; Decatur, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Cumberland, Maryland; Lima, Ohio; Parkersburg, West Virginia; Highland, Indiana; and Elmhurst, Illinois.

According to the report, top cities were spread out across the country, although there were fewer in the Southeast, in New England and in western states other than California.

What’s in the report
One major metric was whether a first responder can get a well-paid job in their field in the city. Job availability was weighted at 25 percent, and defined as the number of open full-time first responder jobs per 10,000 residents, available and listed on Indeed.com. GoodCall searched for EMT, paramedic, police officer, sheriff officer, and firefighter jobs in each city.

Comparative salary was also weighted at 25 percent, taking an average of the median salaries for EMT and paramedics, police and sheriff officers, and firefighters, and then comparing that average to the median overall salary for the area. The number here is expressed as a percentage of the overall median, so numbers greater than 100 percent indicate higher pay than the area’s median. Data for this portion comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cost of living was another factor weighted at 25 percent. This data point was pulled from Sperling’s bestplaces.net from 2016, showing whether a city is generally cheaper or more expensive than the national average. As defined in the report, cost of living includes costs for groceries, health, housing, utilities, transportation and other common expenses. A score greater than 100 is more expensive than the national average, while a score below 100 is more affordable.

The report’s other metric was whether the city is an “all-around nice, livable city.” For this, GoodCall considered unemployment levels, weighted at 5 percent, which reflects the percentage of workers age 16 and older who are unemployed, according to 2015 one-year estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

GoodCall also considered amenities, weighted at 5 percent, reviewing the number of arts, entertainment and recreation facilities per 1,000 people. This was based on data from the Geographic Area Survey 2012 census by economic place. Restaurants and bars were also weighted at 5 percent, looking at the number of food and drinking businesses per 1,000 residents.

Crime was another factor, weighted at 5 percent, looking at FBI crime data from 2015 and comparing the number of violent and property crimes per 1,000 people. And educational attainment was the last factor, weighted at 5 percent, looking at the percentage of residents ages 25 and older who graduated from high school, and the percentage who have at least a bachelor’s degree. This is based on data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2015 one-year estimates.

With all of that said, here’s how Madison Heights (population: 30,200) performed in key areas:

• Salary comparison: 124 percent (higher than average).

• Job availability per 10,000 residents: 1.66.

• Cost of living: 85.7 (more affordable than average).

• Amenities per 1,000 residents: 0.43.

• Restaurants per 1,000 residents: 3.01.

• Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 20.13.

The full report can be found by visiting www.goodcall.com/data-center and clicking on “2017 Best Cities for First Responders.”

Support for public safety
City officials celebrated the good news.

“I think this is recognition for a lot of hard work put in by our planners, residents, and business owners in our community,” said Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett, in an email. “Successive generations of residents have sought to make Madison Heights an attractive, very livable community to prosper and raise families in. For five years now, City Council has insisted on investing resources in city services and amenities such as our library and parks. All of this effort was recognized in this survey, and by the many families who seek out Madison Heights as home.”

Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis used to work as an EMT, and said he’s seen how hard the work can be for paramedics.

“There’s no doubt it’s a tough job,” Soltis said. “(First responders) see things people don’t want to see, or hope they never will see. They’re on call 24/7, day and night, and they have to respond no matter what it is, and most times, they don’t know what it’ll be until they get there, so they have to use their intuition and their experience to get them through tough situations. They have to make immediate decisions — life-or-death decisions, which makes things stressful and challenging.

“This rating gives credit to the city and our hard work of prioritizing public safety,” Soltis said. “That’s been a constant issue that’s been at the forefront ever since I’ve been on council. It’s gone to show the hard work of city staff, the police officers, the firefighters and all of the paramedics.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss said he appreciates the survey’s focus on first responders.

“It’s always great to get national recognition by being placed on lists like this, but it’s even more special when the focus of the list are those who serve our community in life-or-death situations,” Bliss said via email. “First responders are there for our residents in their most difficult moments, so I’m glad that this study recognizes our city’s deep commitment towards our first responders. I’m also thrilled that it showcases our commitment to making Madison Heights a great place to live and work.”

Mayor Brian Hartwell said a healthy community balances the needs of its people and those who protect them.

“Our first responders have exhausting jobs, both physically and mentally,” Hartwell said in an email. “The city’s compensation package for employees in the Police and Fire departments is collectively bargained for between the unions and city administration. This relationship is symbiotic. The residents, as represented by city officials, want value for their tax dollar, but also understand that loyal, hardworking city employees need to be fairly paid.

“The city of Madison Heights recruits and hires the best,” he said. “We intend on keeping it that way, and as a times change, we’ll grow with our employees. I’m impressed that a data center like GoodCall recognized the advantages of working for the city of Madison Heights.”