A national economic analysis ranks the Baraboo area the 15th-most prosperous small community in America.
Policom Corporation’s recently released economic strength rankings place Baraboo 15th among “micropolitan” markets. The Florida research firm used county-level statistics in analyzing employment, earnings, growth and stability. That means the high ranking is a feather in the caps of both Baraboo and Sauk County.
“It’s great to show we’re a strong economic driver,” said Bobbie Boettcher, executive director of the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce.
The community has fared well in Policom’s annual rankings, consistently placing among the top 100 (of 550) micropolitan markets, ascending to 13th last year. “Micropolitan” markets are areas with a population of more than 10,000 but fewer than 50,000.
“Being ranked 15th in the country, that’s pretty remarkable,” Mayor Mike Palm said. “We will strive to be No. 1.”
Policom’s ranking is the latest honor for Baraboo. In September, the Circus City made U.S. News & World Report’s list of six up-and-coming American cities. In 2013, Smithsonian Magazine named Baraboo the No. 4 small town to visit in the U.S. The next year, the book “The Economic Viability of Micropolitan America” noted Baraboo as a success story.
Baraboo is the top-ranked micropolitan market in Wisconsin. Madison placed 13th among metropolitan markets. The next-highest-ranked Wisconsin community on the micropolitan list was Whitewater-Elkhorn at No. 30.
In his report. William Fruth writes that the highest-ranked areas have enjoyed rapid, consistent growth. His analysis of federal government data is designed to evaluate a community’s standard of living. The rate and consistency of its economic growth are key factors, as is a broad base.
Boettcher and Palm said the Baraboo area’s diverse economy is critical to its strength, boasting robust tourism, manufacturing and retail sectors. “We weathered the recession so well because we have that diversity,” Boettcher said.
Palm said Baraboo’s ranking means a lot because Policom’s economic research is respected. “They are known as the standard, if you will, for taking a look at communities and taking the pulse,” he said.
The community’s latest honor is another selling point for the Baraboo area. Boettcher said it’s one more accolade the Chamber of Commerce can promote, along with Devil’s Lake State Park being the most popular in the Wisconsin system. “It’s part of our portfolio,” she said. “It’s another part of the story we can tell.”