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Howard cities rank among top 10 'Best Places to Live'

Fifth time's still the charm: Columbia and Ellicott City have once again placed among the top 10 "Best Places to Live," according to Money Magazine's biennial ranking of small cities.

The two towns were jointly recognized as the sixth best small city in the United States by the magazine, which looked at 780 other cities with populations between 50,000 and 300,000 in making its decision. This year is the fifth consecutive time since 2006 that Ellicott City and Columbia have ranked among the top 10 cities on the list.

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And this year, Eden Prairie, Minn., the town that County Executive Ken Ulman has jokingly called an archrival in speeches about Howard's quality of life, was nowhere to be found on the list. Columbia and Ellicott City nearly clinched the first-place spot on the list in 2010, ranking second only to Eden Prairie. In 2012, the Howard County towns ranked eighth, while Eden Prairie came in third.

The rankings are based on a Money Magazine analysis that takes into account "great jobs, strong economies, affordable homes, excellent schools and much more," according to the magazine.

Of Howard County, Money Magazine wrote: "Ellicott City has quaint older homes and a charming downtown. Columbia is a planned community stocked with pools and sports facilities... and other practical amenities. Though the two unincorporated places have their own unique feel, they function as a single city in many respects. For residents, that means shared access to parks, rec facilities and a diverse and outstanding school district. The area is also rife with good jobs -- many of which require only a short commute."

McKinney, Texas, a Dallas/Fort Worth suburb, claimed first place in this year's rankings. Rounding out the list were Maple Grove, Minn. (#2), Carmel, Ind. (#3), Castle Rock, Colo. (#4), Kirkland, Wash. (#5), Clarkstown, N.Y. (#7), Ames, Iowa (#8), Rochester Hills, Mich.. (#9) and Reston, Va. (#10).

Two other Maryland cities made the top 50 list: Rockville placed 24th and Bowie was number 28.

Ulman attributed Howard's sixth-place finish to its quality of life.

"I'm thrilled when our community receives national recognition," he said. "What is most gratifying is that ths ranking is based on the very things we work hard on every day: great schools, a model public health community and a thriving local economy."

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