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The Birmingham News
July 14, 2009

Calera, Alabaster and Helena among the best 100 places to live, according to Money magazine
by SCOTTIE VICKERY and RAHKIA NANCE
News staff writers

Three Shelby County cities are among the best 100 places to live, according to Money magazine.

Calera, Alabaster and Helena were chosen as some of America's best small towns, according to the list released Monday. The list, which will be in the August issue, focused on cities with populations between 8,500 and 50,000.

The cities selected have good schools, affordable homes and low crime rates, according to the magazine. Calera ranked 83rd on the list, Alabaster came in at No. 85 and Helena was No. 90.

The only other Alabama city to make the list was Madison, which was ranked No. 49.

"It's a true testament to the people living in these communities," state Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said of the three Shelby County cities included in the list.

"I think that says a whole lot about the economy and quality of life in this corridor of I-65," he said. "With these tough economic times, you hear so much about the bad stuff going on. To see something like this tells you something good is going on in Shelby County."

Calera was singled out for being close to Birmingham, while offering "plenty of country scenery nestled between the hills of central Alabama."

Its residents are fiercely loyal to local stores, the magazine reports, and outdoor activities, such as hunting and fishing, are popular.

Mayor George Roy said he wasn't surprised that Calera was included.

"We heard a rumor they were looking at Calera," he said. "I'm glad the word is finally getting out. Calera's just a good place to live. The people are very sociable, we've got the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum and Timberline Golf Course, and we've never had any racial problems."

The mayor said Calera's three exits off Interstate 65 make the city desirable, and added that it has something to offer everyone.

"We have the new high school that opened last year, and they're enlarging the elementary school," Roy said. "We've got a very good library, and our parks and recreation facilities, community center and senior building are all part of what makes Calera a good place to live."

Alabaster boasts an unemployment rate near pre-recession levels, according to Money.

"This young town is one of Alabama's fastest growing; new construction continues, and home prices haven't declined much," the listing reads.

Ward said he was pleased that Alabaster has been recognized as a desirable place to live for the second time in a year. In February, it was included on BusinessWeek magazine's list of best affordable suburbs.

City leaders should be proud of the double recognition, Ward said. "It says a lot about the direction they're headed in," he said.

Helena was selected for its combination of small-town charm and natural beauty.

"Though Old Town Helena was built around railroads in the late 19th century, the downtown still brings the community together," its listing reads. "Performances are hosted in an outdoor amphitheatre and local food vendors collect in town for Helena Market Days."

Helena Mayor Sonny Penhale said the city depends on volunteers to organize events such as the Buck Creek Festival, the Christmas parade and the Fourth of July celebration.

"I don't think you'll find a place with any better people than Helena," he said. "I know there are good people all over the world, but we have the best right here."

Penhale said all three of the Shelby County communities on the list are attractive to young families.

"Young people are coming out of the Birmingham area, and they're coming out here," he said. "We're 15 minutes from the Riverchase Galleria, we have a hospital five minutes away, and we have the best schools in the state. That's what people look at because they're interested in the best for their kids, and we try to provide that."


 

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