While many Lebanon residents have felt for a long time that their fair city is simply a wonderful place to call home, those same folks can stroll through downtown with their heads held a little higher. It’s official. Lebanon has been named the Best Small Town in America out of 100 competing communities.

The award was presented by the website Livability.com that showcases America’s best places to live based on an intensive rating system. Livability officials describe themselves in the following manner: “For 25 years Livability has worked with hundreds of communities developing content marketing programs showcasing why they are a great place to live with one simple goal: help cities attract and retain residents and businesses. Today we are one of the leading online resources used for researching communities.”

Lebanon Recreation Director, Paul Coats, played a huge role by working with the Livability staff directly. His reaction to the award was off the charts and outfitted him with a smile from ear-to-ear.

“I am simply ecstatic about it,” Coats responded. “Being involved in the interviewing process while working with Livability and seeing how it all came out was very exciting. By the way, last year it got very little attention, but Lebanon finished in the top 10 in that same poll. We should all be very proud.”

What criteria placed Lebanon as number one out of 100 Best Small Towns in America?

“There was a long list that Livability used for posting this rating, but I think affordability was very important. That was key because there was very stiff competition. The rating was based on populations up to 20,000,” Coats explained.

The praise for Lebanon was highlighted by a statement from Livability’s Matt Carmichael who serves as the company’s Vice President and Editor.

“This quintessential New England community might just be the perfect small town. Lebanon is more than just a pretty place to visit. The city is a cultural and business hub as well. This discussion starts with its close proximity to Dartmouth College in neighboring Hanover means a constant influx of young adults and cultural draws for the region. Alongside that comes the economic stability of having solid institutions like Lebanon’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the area’s largest employer.”

When first asked about Lebanon’s qualities from a complete stranger calling from Livability, Coats set the tone with the following response.

“Close your eyes and picture a New England town green.”

That mental image was matched by Carmichael’s assessment following the conversation.

“As Coats paints the picture for us, it’s easy to imagine the families picnicking and children dancing around the bandstand during one of many free concerts on the green. City Hall shares a building with the Opera House at one end of the green. Restaurants like the Salt hill Pub and Three Tomatoes line another side. Neighborhoods surround this district providing walkable access to the town center, and a couple of blocks away, residents can ski at Storrs Hill.”

While there has been some skepticism over the award, especially from other picturesque New Hampshire and Vermont small towns, Livability explains why the award carries much credibility.

“Livability explores what makes small-to-medium sized cities great places to live. Through propriety research studies, engaging articles and original photography and video, we examine topics related to community amenities, education, sustainability, transportation, housing and the economy.”

For Lebanon residents raising children, Livability noted a huge sidebar declaring that the town offered “a highly rated” school system along with one of the area’s best recreational programs. When it’s all said and done, it’s time to start sporting “I Love Lebanon” buttons for the world to see. In the final poll the top five towns in the Granite State were: 1) Lebanon; 2) Portsmouth; 3) Concord; 4) Laconia; 5) Nashua.

by Dave Nelson
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