Springfield, once a major center of industrial innovation, is the state’s third-largest city and a regional health, retail and financial center. Locals are credited with development of the Springfield Rifle, the 1895 Duryea motorcar, and basketball (thanks to Dr. James Naismith, in 1891. Some credit the motorcycle to area inventors and the early Indian Manufacturing Company. At one time that area was a significant manufacturing center, but most has left the area (including most recently a forge that made Craftsman tools).
The “five college” area to the north includes the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and colleges of Amherst, Holyoke, Smith, and Hampshire, and the Berkshire mountains to the north and west offer some recreation. The Cost of Living is no bargain, but on a Massachusetts scale it is attractive, particularly scaled against local incomes and projected income growth. The employment picture is currently weak, and climate and crime further depress the ranking.
The area sits in a broad valley in the western part of Massachusetts. Thickly wooded hills rise immediately to the east and west of the valley. The climate is continental with distinct seasons and highly variable weather. Summers are hot, humid, and calm with occasional thundershowers. The Berkshire Mountains to the west slow larger storm fronts. Winters bring frequent cold snaps and snow, particularly generated by moist mid-Atlantic storms colliding with cold, northerly air masses. First freeze is mid-October, last is late April.