South Bend is located about 30 miles inland from where the Michigan-Indiana border intersects with the lower portion of Lake Michigan. The city has a well-balanced mix of industry, education, and cultural amenities, and has become an economic center for a large portion of northern Indiana and southern Michigan known locally as “Michiana.”
Once an automotive center and home to the Studebaker Motor Company, The South Bend area is still a manufacturing center for automotive and defense products. Much of this manufacturing actually occurs in Mishawaka just east along the St. Joseph River. The 150-year-old Notre Dame University adds variety, college amenities, and a set of nationally followed sports programs.
Aside from the Notre Dame campus, the downtown is fairly nondescript, but good local parks and the Lake Michigan shore provide recreation. Chicago is accessible by rail transit although it is too far for a regular commute. Cost of living is remarkably low for the region and type of area, and housing is a bargain. Problems in the auto industry have hurt employment prospects, and crime has been a problem in the past. The area climate receives the full brunt of the Lake Michigan lake effect. But the area scores relatively well in all categories with no major negatives, hence the solid ranking.
The area sits on a level, glacial, coastal plain with gently rolling terrain mainly to the south and east. The downwind location from Lake Michigan effects summer and winter weather. The lake moderates temperatures in all seasons but produces periods of high humidity and extended cloudiness year-round and heavy snows in winter. Precipitation is fairly well distributed, with most occurring in the summer as thundershowers. First freeze is early October, last is early May.