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Anchorage named one of nation's best cities for young adults

  • Author: Jerzy Shedlock
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published May 28, 2013

Alaska's largest city has landed on another top-10 list.

After earning notice by multiple list-makers -- named the 10th best city in the U.S., a hipster haven and the worst-dressed town -- Anchorage has added to its notoriety.

Recent college graduates from Anchorage take heed before ditching your roots, because your hometown apparently ranks fifth among the best locales for young adults.

Keep in mind that the fine folks at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine chose Anchorage based on a pile of data, like median salaries of bachelor's degree holders and average monthly living costs for renters. Perhaps more important in determining whether Anchorage is youngster friendly, the magazine scanned cities for above-average concentrations of 20-somethings. For Alaska's largest city, it's about 16 percent of the total population.

Small but expensive

Sandwiched between the two major cities of San Diego and Houston, Anchorage sits in the middle of the pack of cities gaining notice; Fairbanks failed to get a mention.

Anchorage's population at about 300,000 is much smaller than other cities on the list. But don't let the sparse population fool you, as the cost of living for renters is about 30 percent above the national average.

Despite that, the factor that led to Anchorage's high-ranking position on the list was money.

"Anchorage may be the most expensive city on this list," an article accompanying the list begins, "but its college grads are also the best paid." According to Kiplinger, the median salary for recent college graduates is $47,600 per year. Those capitalistic city dwellers are spending much of that hard-earned cash on rent, however. The average apartment rent is $1,269 per month.

By comparison, Salt Lake City, which tops the list, has a median salary for recent college graduates of $41,300 per year, but an apartment costs recent grads just $770 a month.

Fairbanks transplant Rebecca Schikora attended graduate school at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She obtained a master of business administration with a focus on strategic planning and executive leadership and has landed a procurement and supply chain management internship in the oil and gas industry, she said.

After getting her MBA, she didn't bother looking elsewhere for a job -- the networking and post grad opportunities locally are amazing, she said. There are incredible job opportunities for young people here, not to mention lucrative ones, she added.

Prior to her graduate studies, Schikora spent a fair amount of time Outside, in places like New York City, Brazil and Italy. She finished her undergraduate studies in Fairbanks. Her plan to move to Portland fizzled when she couldn't find a job because of the recession.

Anchorage's economic health was definitely a selling point for making Alaska's largest city her home base, she said.

Low tax burden, plus Permanent Fund

But back to the list. The authors go on to boast of Anchorage's lack of a state income or sales tax, adding that you, too, can collect free money by lasting only a year in the state's frigid climate, which is believed to be getting colder, by the way. The cash comes in the form of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, which is taxable for federal income purposes.

According to the list, the city's leading industries are education, health care and business services. While the article hit the mark with its upbeat assessment of the job market, ultimately most industries in Anchorage contribute to economic growth, according to the state's Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Anchorage School District continues to attract Outside educators and administrators thanks to its competitive salaries, but benefits are few and far between, teachers argue. And the district is so committed to containing spending it plans to lay off about 200 workers, mostly in "support" positions.

An aging state population allows the health-care industry to generate the largest number of new jobs in Anchorage, as it did in 2012, according to the labor department. Analysts expect Anchorage's 65-and-older population to grow from 21,000 to 40,000 by 2020, driving demand. So maybe forward-thinking degree holders will flock to the award-winning city to help the elderly. Or maybe not.

Business services had a higher job count in 2012 than that category has ever attained, according to the labor department. Hopefully all those engineers, accountants and legal service employees can find affordable apartments.

Outdoors and culture

Not so flattering is the authors' take on competition for those jobs. "Further, (Anchorage's) distance from the Lower 48 states limits your competition for the highest-paying jobs." Is the city filled with amateurs?

Anchorage's entry on the list was rounded out by mentions of such city attractions as hiking, skiing, fishing and climbing glaciers. Also worthy of note: the Anchorage Museum and First Fridays downtown.

Schikora, an avid outdoorswoman, called the back country around Anchorage "epic." Since the snow melted, she's been rollerblading and biking every day. The outdoors, the city's job prospects and its funky culture keep Schikora happy.

The outdoors doesn't appeal to all 20-somethings, however. Schikora said she's noticed a divide among Anchorage residents: outdoors lovers and the "others." The only additional negative about the city she could think of was the crime rate. But it's not visible in her neighborhood. She's only aware of the violent crimes from what she reads in the press. In fact, the only thing that could make life in the city better is a season pass to Alyeska Ski Resort.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com

Correction: The above article contained an error about the source's employment. She does procurement and supply chain management for the oil and gas industry, not purchasing and supply chain management.

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