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First Annual “Cities on the Edge” Study Finds San Francisco, Boston and Denver on the Edge of Greatness

Sperling’s BestPlaces and Edge® Shave Gel Reveal American Cities Poised for Greatness in Sports, Art, Music, Culture


SHELTON, CT (MAY 24, 2011) –From the hottest bats to the greenest buildings, new research commissioned by the makers of Edge® Shave Gel ranks and rates the top 50 US cities poised for greatness. The findings, fielded by research firm Sperling’s BestPlaces, examine five key areas of greatness, including sports, art, music, culture and cosmopolitan factors, like LEED certifications* and population growth.

San Francisco (No. 1), Boston (No. 2) and Denver (No. 3) top the list, while Tampa (No. 50), Providence, RI (No. 49) and Memphis (No. 48) rounded out the rankings. The biggest difference? Researchers say burgeoning art scenes and a commitment to the environment helped propel San Francisco, Boston and Denver to the top.

“Each of these cities landed in the top percentiles in the arts categories and in LEED certifications, while cities like Providence and Memphis barely cracked the seventh percentile in arts and were all in the bottom sixth percentile for LEED certifications,” said Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s BestPlaces. “But what was most surprising to us was the number of San Francisco residents who went on to become professional athletes, about 17 per 100,000 population, which is much higher than other cities.”

In fact, San Francisco ranked fifth overall in the number of modern-day professional athletes, those whose careers took place in the 1990s or later, per 100,000 population (athletes born in that city, not currently living in it), just behind Pittsburgh (No. 4), New Orleans (No. 3), Cincinnati (No. 2) and St. Louis (No. 1) in that category.

“This study is about helping guys get their edge by showing them the places they can go to help them achieve their own personal greatness,” said Jeffrey Wolf, senior brand manager for Edge. “The brand was founded on the premise of giving guys an Edge in front of the mirror and this is about taking that one step further and helping them get their edge in life.”

The “Cities on the Edge” study assessed five categories to identify which US cities are well-positioned to rise to the top. The categories examine:

(1) the City, including an analysis of the job market, housing cost and appreciation, population, percentage of young people, education level, income and investment in green living;

(2) Music, identifying the most independent, homegrown music scenes;

(3) Arts, examining artists per 100,000 population, paired with the presence of local art institutions;

(4) Hometown Sports Heroes, the percentage of pro football, baseball or basketball players born in each city beginning in 1990; and

(5) Alternative Sports, analyzing interest in alternative sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding, motocross, BMX, X games, ultimate fighting/martial arts, professional lacrosse and soccer. 

Based on these categories, the top 10 cities on the edge of greatness are:

  1. San Francisco, CA:  This West Coast hot spot earned top scores in arts and music, as well as high rankings in number of homegrown sports heroes, well-educated residents, healthy lifestyle and energy-efficient building.
  2. Boston, MA:  The Boston metro area earns the number-two spot with great scores for the city itself and its music and arts scenes.  Boston rises to the top for health resources and ranks in the top 10 for education level and LEED-certified buildings. 
  3. Denver, CO:  Sporting heavy interest in alternative sports such as the X Games, snowboarding and skateboarding, Denver also features a high percentage of young, well-educated residents and a heavy focus on green building. Its art and music scenes are not to be underestimated, coming in the top 20 with potential to rise to the top in future studies.
  4. Portland, OR:  Featuring a stronghold on indie music and arts, Portland promises great things in the culture category, as well as a top 10 score for alternative sports fans.  This city also features a high score in LEED-certified building with a top 10 ranking in the city category. 
  5. Austin, TX:  Known for its “Keep Austin Weird” tagline, Austin may soon boast about greatness instead.  The “Live Music Capital of the World” ranks fourth in the category of indie music and nails the top spot in the city category with a high percentage of young, well-educated residents, a healthy economy and substantial green building activity.
  6. Seattle, WA:  The birthplace of “grunge” in the 1990s achieves top 10 placement for its still-strong music and art scenes, and features a strong interest in alternative sports.  Not surprisingly, this eco-friendly spot scored fourth-highest for LEED buildings and for its level of educated residents.
  7. Washington, DC:  DC residents can stand proud of their ranking in the city category, boasting the best job situation in the “Cities on the Edge” study, as well as stable housing, highly-educated residents, significant energy-efficient building activity and relative affordability for residents.  This locale may need to focus on upping scores in music, arts and sports, which – while above average – did not rise to the top.
  8. Los Angeles, CA:The mega-metro of Los Angeles cracks our top 10 with consistently high scores for arts, music and hometown sports heroes.  Residents really love their alternative sports, propelling the city to third place in this category.
  9. Philadelphia, PA:  While Philly residents may often consider themselves the underdog in professional sports, this city scored sixth for producing homegrown sports heroes.  Philadelphia also features high scores in the music, arts and alternative sports categories, and scored high in health resources and stable housing. 
  10. Salt Lake City, UT:This winter sports haven rounds out the top 10 “Cities on the Edge” rankings, coming in second in alternative sports and third in the city category.  Its high number of young adults, healthy lifestyle trends and solid economy make it a strong contender for climbing the ranking in future years.

In addition to the top 10 “Cities on the Edge,” several surprising findings point to potential for greatness across the country:

  • Creative minds flock to the city by the bay as the most artists and art galleries per 100,000 population call San Francisco home.  Seattle and New York also attract artistic types, ranking second and third respectively in the Arts category.
  • Meet us in St. Louis if you want to go pro! According to the study, St. Louis breeds the most professional baseball players.  New Orleans boasts the most homegrown football pros, while Detroit produces the most homegrown pro basketball players. 
  • Looking to go green? The top ranking may come as a surprise, with Grand Rapids, MI taking the top spot as the country’s “greenest” city. The “Cities on the Edge” study determined that Grand Rapids has the most LEED-certified buildings and projects in progress. Detroit, Birmingham and Dayton may want to take notes as these three cities landed at the bottom of the list.

Complete “Cities on the Edge” Rankings

  1. San Francisco
  2. Boston
  3. Denver
  4. Portland
  5. Austin
  6. Seattle
  7. Washington
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Philadelphia
  10. Salt Lake City
  11. New York
  12. Minneapolis
  13. San Diego
  14. Chicago
  15. Dallas
  16. Oakland
  17. Richmond
  18. Detroit
  19. Columbus
  20. Milwaukee
  21. Atlanta
  22. Baltimore
  23. Charlotte
  24. Miami
  25. Columbia
  26. Pittsburgh
  27. Nashville
  28. Cincinnati
  29. Houston
  30. Las Vegas
  31. Sacramento
  32. Buffalo
  33. Birmingham
  34. New Orleans
  35. Cleveland
  36. Kansas City
  37. Grand Rapids-Wyoming
  38. Orlando
  39. Oklahoma City
  40. St. Louis
  41. San Antonio
  42. Phoenix
  43. Rochester
  44. Dayton
  45. Indianapolis
  46. Louisville
  47. Jacksonville
  48. Memphis
  49. Providence
  50. Tampa-St. Petersburg

About Edge

Edge Shave Gel is committed to making sure men get an edge in all areas of their lives, from avoiding nicks, dryness, redness and irritation in their morning shave to reaching the Edge of Greatness. With six unique formulations specially designed for every shaving need, Edge offers customizable comfort for all skin types.  Edge Shave Gel varieties are available at mass, drug, retail and food outlets nationwide for about $2.79.  Visit for more information.


About Sperling’s BestPlaces

Bert Sperling has been helping people find their own "Best Place" to live, work and retire for more than 20 years. His firm, Sperling's BestPlaces, puts facts in the hands of the public so they can make better decisions about best places to live, work, retire, play, or relocate. His bestselling books, Cities Ranked and Rated and Best Places to Raise Your Family, are published by John Wiley & Sons.  More information about Bert and his work is available at