At the US Conference of Mayors meeting this weekend in Chicago, I attended a session on how cities can make themselves more competetive in drawing new residents.  One of the session panelists, Rebecca Ryan, is the founder of Next Generation Consulting, which since 1998 has been tracking where young professionals live and work, and why. Ryan's firm uses several indexes to look at which cities are most attractive to young professionals, but she mentioned an informal index that was intriguing to me.

"Go home and Google 'moving to' and the name of your city," Ryan says. "Look at the first 3 hits. I hope they're not real estate sites." It's not a scientific measure, obviously, but Ryan's point is that cities have to market themselves aggresively, and often in ways that might not be obvious. I wanted to see how Ryan's suggestion worked for a few cities:

Washington, DC:  Not great. The first few links are for moving companies, followed by a couple Amazon listings for a book about moving to the capital.  The first link from the city, the DC Chamber of Commerce, is ninth on the list. Chicago:  Low.  No city-sponsored sites appear in the first 50 hits, which are filled with apartment finders, personal ads, and websites for churches and synagogues. Nashville, TN (near where I grew up): Very good. The second Google hit is for the area chamber of commerce.