Forbes has compiled new data and released a new best  list of “opportunity cities” based on cities that are small enough to make your mark but large enough to offer amenities.

Are you a young professional trying to earn success in an urban, fast-paced and culturally diverse environment? Then you’re probably looking to live in one of Forbes’ “Opportunity Cities.”

Unlike major cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where professionals in the early to middle phases of their careers (ages 25 to 39) might feel overwhelmed or lost in the shuffle, most of these cities are small enough that enterprising people can really make their mark,” writes Erin Carlyle. “But they’re still large enough to offer amenities—museums, parks, and in many cases vibrant downtowns–that make for a high quality of life. Most importantly, because these places offer affordable housing, residents enjoy the opportunity to spend their energy getting creative, starting a company, or simply enjoying time off, without the pressure-cooker professional environment and stressfully high housing costs that are the hallmark of many of the nation’s biggest job centers.”

Carlyle explains that the 19 cities on the list were chosen after looking into median home sales, unemployment rates, and population growth overall. She also mentions that the list focuses specifically on core urban areas– “downtowns are in vogue these days”– and doesn’t include metropolitan statistics for cities’ surrounding suburbs. 

The two cities that Forbes ranked above Pittsburgh are Columbus, OH and Rochester, NY. Others making the list include Toledo, OH, Rockford, IL, Lubbock, TX and Philadelphia.

Following stats for population growth, median home sales, annual violent crime and unemployment change, Carlyle tells the story of Brian Mendelssohn, who came to Pittsburgh 20 years ago to study engineering at CMU. Mendelssohn tells a story of what the city used to look like in certain areas–streets full of empty buildings just waiting to be filled.

Mendelssohn told Forbes, “I got really excited about them. It’s almost like they were Lego pieces; I kept dreaming about what I would want to do with them if I was in charge.”

Instead of waiting for opportunity, Mendelssohn made his own within the blank canvas of Pittsburgh’s evolving past. He bought two buildings, then four, and now owns the buildings where some of Pittsburgh’s favorite restaurants now reside (Tender Bar & Kitchen and Smoke Taqueria).

“I came to the conclusion that in order to continue making this community interesting, I had to do stuff where I would want to move to the community. And if I lived here, what would make me excited about living here,” he says. “That’s my vision of how to create and redevelop a rundown part of town.” 

Read Erin Carlyle’s full article and see the complete list of “Opportunity Cities” here.

Rebekah Zook

Rebekah Zook is a Duquesne grad and all-around story-telling enthusiast. A former fellow at WESA, she worked as a production assistant for their daily talk show. Most recently, she taught in the Propel...