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Hagerstown's hip status illustrates Money's creativity

June 15, 2004

So Hagerstown is a Top 5 city in America, according to Money magazine. Maybe as high as No. 2, although that's a little unclear, among 149 ranked towns with populations of less than 250,000.Take that, Annapolis.

Hagerstown a Top 5 city. Who knew? Aside from Bill Breichner, that is. He's probably already penning his letter to Money magazine as we speak, arguing that, due to our fine municipal sewer and water plants, we should have been No. 1.

In the June edition article called "What Makes a Place Hot," Hagerstown was listed as one of 18 "cities to watch" over the next 10 years.

Can't argue with them there. I've been watching Hagerstown for about 15 years now and it fascinates the bejeebers out of me. Of course, I've been watching "The Simpsons" for about the same amount of time and have been equally fascinated, although that does not mean I'd like to spend the rest of my life at Moe's.

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I don't know a whole lot about Money magazine - I sort of lost touch with it after a big cover story back in the go-go '90s called "Sell Stocks Now!" - after which, stocks continued to rise another bazillion points. I'm not completely sure, but I think it was about the same time they called Allegheny Energy an up-and-coming small cap stock.

But I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one, if only because I have a rooting interest. So that puts Hagerstown up there with hip, swank cities such as Napa, Calif., and Salem "The Other One, Not The Witch Burners," Ore.

In explaining what made Hagerstown so attractive, Money magazine cited its "Rural charm, high air quality and its exceedingly witty, charming and accurate newspaper columnists."

Hold on. I've just been informed that this statement may have been taken out of context, by which I mean entirely made up. What the magazine actually cited was Hagerstown's potential for attracting a "creative class" of people to the area over the next 10 years.

Perhaps. But when a "creative class" of cross-dressers tried to hold their national beauty pageant here, we rode them out of town on a rail. "Creative" leaves open a lot of room for interpretations with which we have not always been entirely comfortable.

More specifically, Money pegs workers in the following fields as being creative: Scientists, conservationists, psychologists, planners, computer programmers, architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, trainers, librarians, artists, designers, entertainers, leisure and recreational jobs, media jobs, managers, business and financial jobs, and high-end sales jobs.

Yup, scientists and fashion designers, that's us in a nutshell.

And they would all move to Hagerstown. Why? To draw inspiration from yard sales and the crows?

Not that I find anything incredulous about a bevy of scientists flocking to Hagerstown like it was Los Freaking Alamos - maybe they figure there won't be a lot of competition. Or maybe they want to - yikes - experiment on us, or see what nutrients of ours they can extract to further their own existence.

But to me, what's a little curious is that, according to Money, hot cities also possess the following qualities: young, educated workers; high-tech industries; a pleasant environment; open-mindedness; a good image; excitement; buzz; affordable real estate, taxes and rent; a thriving counterculture; a robust urban environment; a music scene; an art scene; an entrepreneur scene; diversity; night life; people moving to neglected neighborhoods; a progressive political culture; good schools; low crime, terrific tourism opportunities; and a friendly atmosphere for immigrants and youths.

Um. Define open-mindedness.

And a progressive political culture? Oh my stars yes, just read our "letters to the editor" page. Now, the "obesity" I suppose I have to agree with, although - what? - oh, "diversity." My bad.

In total truth I can say that we have people moving to neglected neighborhoods all the time, although it's usually for a set of hubcaps. But we do have a somewhat thriving counterculture, by which I assume they mean Democrats.

But hey, it beats the time we were something like 298 out of 300, so I could not be more optimistic and more pleased. It's great news. So as they would say at Moe's, "Watch out Utica, because Hagerstown is a city on the "grow."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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