Smarter in Blacksburg?

Here's something else to spur a Tech/UVA rivalry. Forbes Magazine just selected its 20 Most Educated Small Towns, and while Charlottesville is nowhere to be seen (hey, we thought this was egg-head central), Blacksburg, Virginia comes in at number 14. Citing the presence of Virginia Tech, which employs 1,371 full-time professors and 1,690 other faculty and research associates, Forbes calculates that 42.7 percent of its 41,492 population have advanced degrees and 31.6 percent have bachelor's degrees. McLean, Virginia came in at number 4, Chapel Hill, North Carolina at number 12...and the smartest small town in America: Bethesda, Maryland.


"To determine America's most-educated small towns, we used data from the U.S. Census 2005-2007 American Community Survey, which polled more than 2,500 regions with 20,000 to 65,000 residents about their educational attainment."

I'm pretty sure this "region" exceeds 65,000 residents, which eliminates Charlottesville from consideration. Of course, if they counted livestock Blacksburg would exceed the limit as well.

Blacksburg named one of 20 most educated small towns: [insert joke here].

They are most definitely smarter about urban planning, design, and development. I have always been impressed with the way traffic issues are addressed and dealt with in a place some of you consider a joke. We can't say the same here in Charlottesville.

Blacksburg named one of 20 most educated small towns. I agree.

Also, the people in Blacksburg are better, more courteous drivers.

Friends who visit from Blacksburg notice that drivers here in Charlottesville are more aggressive and drive too fast.

Illa, anecdotal evidence reigns supreme in your world tonight, huh?

People in Blacksburg are better drivers? C'mon! What areas do they drive in in C'Ville? In Blacksburg? Are the two areas comparable? What is the median age of the drivers in the two areas? When are they diving? What sort of 'stats' are they keeping? Etc.

If I had to guess, I'd say the drivers in C'ville compared to Blacksburg are...[Insert sweeping generalization here]


Lisa, it must have been quite a while since you have been to Blacksburg, or if it was recently, you didn't look around much.

Blacksburg is a nightmare of planning and there has been a huge conflict for years between the mostly local city officials and the university types, especially those in the architecture and planning departments, about what course Blacksburg out to be taking for its future. The town is losing out to football, big chains and short sighted greed.

The most prominent spot in the whole downtown almost became a CVS, which was narrowly avoided through some negotiations at the last minute after a bidding war between the city and CVS. That site, a former car dealership and tire store was bought by the city in the end, but that cost so much that they can't really do anything with the property they now own. At least it doesn't look like you are driving into CVStown USA, but it isn't the small business it once was, it isn't the good development project it might have been, and it isn't going to be a good civic building. Sensible early planning by the city could have avoided all of that, instead it became a crisis.

One block north of that is Kent Square, one of the most god-awful examples of New Urbanist crap outside of Gainesville and completely inappropriate for its site. Across the street from the old tire store is the old Blacksburg Middle school which has also been the subject of a huge controversy over its future with the city leaning towards a hideous development last I heard. That is on a picture perfect example of an American small town Main Street which will most likely be destroyed forever.

The 460 bypass around Blacksburg and it's complicated set of connections with the local rt. 460 is a masterpiece of the art of confusion which along with the associated "smart highway" was the result of a money wasting boondoggle of stunning proportions.

There was a lengthy battle over Walmart's plans to build a big box at the edge of town which was handled so stupidly by the city council that the case ended up in the Va. Supreme Court.

A few years ago, Blacksburg gave away a large portion of itself to Christiansburg, which promptly became one of the ugliest and most unnecessary sets of strip malls I have ever seen.

Twenty years ago, Blacksburg was beautiful, really a classic small college town, those days are long gone and it is only getting worse. The situation here is pretty bad, and I think our city council is a disgrace, but I'm sorry to say Blacksburg is actually worse.

So, to get back to the point of the article... Maybe having so many smart people around ain't such a good thing after all.

Dear "No Way"
I moved to Blacksburg in 1970 and left in 1984. My family still lives there so I make it down about four times a year. My observations are based on actually spending time there. The best people to ask are the ones that live there full time and I think there are some very happy people in Blacksburg Virginia. When people finally stop thinking there is a point to comparing Blacksburg and Charlottesville, we may all realize that they are both amazing places and we should all stop our complaining.

The story here isn't really whether Blacksburg is better than Cville, or has better urban planning. It appears Forbes based its rankings solely on the number of people with degrees. Since most Blacksburg residents are affiliated with VT in some way, it makes sense that they'd have a high percentage of residents with bachelor's or master's degrees. While southwest Virginia as a whole struggles with a lack of jobs and poverty, if you truly believe that Blacksburg is just a bunch of dumb rednecks with no teeth then you clearly have not spent much, if any, time there.


You made the comparison. I pointed out just a few of the many, many, things that I could have pointed to that disprove your assertion that "They are most definitely smarter about urban planning, design, and development." That statement is most definitely not true.


So far you are the only one to mention rednecks, or lack of teeth. Where did you come up with that? Blacksburg is full of educated people, surprise, it's a college town!! Since it is small and isolated, it is probably true that the percentage of college educated people is higher. There are fewer locals to skew the figures the other way. I think you have put a little too much faith in a magazine article though. I'm kind of skeptical of figures that tell me there are 40,000+ residents, less than 3,000 faculty and research associates, but more than 40% of the population has a master's degree. That just doesn't add up.

Also, since as you say, the point of the article was to rank cities by the number of people with degrees there, it seems perfectly logical to ask what difference that makes in how a city functions. Blacksburg has some great amenities like the Huckleberry trail, but it is very screwed up in a lot of other ways.

Hey no way. I agree with a lot of what you say. I have been here on and off since 1992. This town has definitely sold out to football but it's mostly the universities fault. I kind of lost faith when we now have 3 freakin Starbucks within town limits. But it's not as horrible as you make it out to be. And in all fairness to the Town the real estate tycoons who own the crumbling infrastructure down town have always charged way way too much for rent. You have similar rent prices one block off of Virginia Beach. Businesses here always struggle till they fail because of it. Projects like Kent Square in theory should drive down retail rent spaces. You walk down town and it looks like Danville with empty store fronts all over the place but it's not the towns fault it's the owners who will not charge a reasonable rent, they don't care it's a write off and if they fill it then it's a bonus.

Also the old tire place that you speak of is going to be some sort of Town building for one of the departments so that was not a waste of money.

Bethesda, that's where Lockheed Martin is based out of right? Go figure.

Charlottesville is a 'city.'

According to Wikipedia (the source all _smart_ people use! you can go look it up somewhere else)...

"Bethesda is an unincorporated area in southern Montgomery County, Maryland"

"Chapel Hill is a town in Durham and Orange counties in North Carolina"

"McLean (pronounced "mick-CLANE" [3]) is a census-designated place in Fairfax County"

"Charlottesville is an independent city located within the confines of Albemarle County in the Commonwealth of Virginia"

all of which is not to suggest that I don't think B'burg is better:-)

Lisa wrote: "They are most definitely smarter about urban planning, design, and development. I have always been impressed with the way traffic issues are addressed and dealt with in a place some of you consider a joke. We can’t say the same here in Charlottesville."

Then Lisa wrote: "When people finally stop thinking there is a point to comparing Blacksburg and Charlottesville, we may all realize that they are both amazing places and we should all stop our complaining."

Physician, heal thyself?

Virginia Tech which employs 1,371 full-time professors???????

That's absolutely absurd!

Sick, did you expect the number to be higher or lower? VT has considerably more students than UVA -- I believe around 30,000, counting graduate and undergrad.

There's a history of debate over methodologies behind lists like this in the business press. Academics have spilled some ink on here for example

My biggest observation of the differences between the two would be in terms of their respective hinterlands. C'ville is blessed/cursed with a bunch of moneyed folks surrounding it. B'burg is blessed/cursed by being surrounded by a lot of hard pressed Appalachia.

Choose your poison I guess.