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Albert Lea community responds to unfavorable ranking

Downtown Albert Lea

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (FOX 47) - Last week, the website "RoadSnacks" listed Albert Lea as one of the worst places to live in Minnesota.

Thursday night, the city's economic organizations pushed back against that suggestion with a plan to get even better.

"If someone's thinking about moving here, and they see that list, I'd tell them to push that list to the side," Sheriff Kurt Freitag of Freeborn County. "Don't let that be your determining factor. Come here, you're gonna love it here."

The list cited Albert Lea's high crime rate and low median income as drawbacks. However, the city ranks as one of the most affordable and the violent crime rate is actually 60 percent below the national average.

"And then we're 33 percent below the Minnesota average so there we're doing very good," Freitag said. "I don't want people to look at these stats and think Albert Lea is a bad place to live. Albert Lea is a great place to live."

While one list has Albert Lea rated as one of the worst places to live in the state, other lists disagree.

"In 2017, we were voted as one of the the top 10 most affordable cities that you'd want to live in," said Mayor Vern Rasmussen.

It was also named one of the top 50 places to live in the United States by "USA Today".

Residents enjoy the charming downtown shops, recreational opportunities and sense of community. However, the city does have it's challenges.

"I think you get a lot of rural communities that are challenged with their housing and their workforce," said Susie Petersen, director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

"Everybody's struggling with workforce. So what areas in workforce do we need to develop? Housing, transportation and childcare," said Albert Lea Economic Development Agency (ALEDA) director Phillip Johnson.

As part of a five-year initiative, ALEDA hopes to improve that by utilizing the town's resources and opportunities.

"Making sure that our kids here know that we have great jobs with great benefits and a great community college," said Johnson.

The plan aims to keep current residents while also welcoming new ones.

"Move to Albert Lea," insists Sheriff Freitag.

"I think if you take the majority of people who live in Albert Lea, they're going to say it's a great place to live and a great place to raise a family," said Petersen.

The city is also working on downtown improvement: developing the downtown, dredging Fountain Lake and installing a new water tower.

Albert Lea also prides itself as being the nation's first Blue Zone Community, part of an initiative to improve residents' overall health.

Alex Tejada

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