Story last updated at 3:09 p.m. Thursday, October 10, 2002

Book lists Homer among top 120 best small towns
by Carey James
Staff Writer

Homer has now joined the ranks of small towns like Port Townsend, Wash., Durango and Telluride, Colo., Brattleboro, Vt., and Grand Marais, Minn., at least in the eyes of one author.

In his soon-to-be-released book, "Making Your Move to One of America's Best Small Towns," Norman Crampton lists Homer as one of 120 small locales nationwide to provide both aesthetic appeal and a relatively healthy economy, among other factors.

The Cosmic Hamlet is the only Alaska town to make it in Crampton's book, which contains a one-page overview of Homer's facilities, employers, climate and cost of living.

Though he's never been to Homer, Crampton said the town stood out in part because of the growth rate of 8 percent listed in the 2000 census. The town also received high points for having "remarkably tolerable weather for so far north."

In truth, however, Crampton said Homer first hit his radar through the words of Tom Bodett. As well, Homer's inclusion in a book listing the top 100 arts communities tipped him off to the town's unique character.

"I was looking for independent small communities of some size so that the community can sustain an interesting life," the author said from his home in Greencastle, Ill. "On that basis, many of the fascinating and undoubtedly beautiful towns in Alaska" didn't make the top 120 list.

Crampton said another factor he used in making his cut was the activities at Homer High School. According to the author, high schools are a relatively accurate reflection on the town.

"In most small towns, high schools reflect much of the happenings in the town," he said, adding that Homer High's strong test scores, graduation rate and the fact that Homer offers an alternative to the traditional high school (Homer Flex) helped boost the town into the top ranks.

"It tells an outsider something about the town that residents are willing to invest in public education," he said.

Crampton said the book, which will be released in November, available at bookstores nationwide as well as online, is his second review of America's small towns. His first, released in the early '90s, ranked 100 towns from best on down. This time, Crampton said, he grouped them all together, because ranking any one town as the best was impossible due to the subjective nature of the choice.

In general, Crampton said, people are more likely to move to a small town now than in the past, because with the increase in telecommuting opportunities, many professionals can choose to work from anywhere with a phone line and FedEx service.

"Many people dream of (moving to a small town), and it's fun to go and see what life might be like in a place like Homer," he said. "It's good to know that they are out there."

Crampton said he doubts his book will create a surge in the population of Homer because from his perspective, that's already happening.

"I'd say there is already a large and organized stampede moving to Homer," he said. "I think a lot of people already know about Homer."