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By CIGI SPARKS, OBSERVER NEWS ENTERPRISE

Recently, NerdWallet — a popular personal finance website — published a study ranking the best cities for young families within the state.

Conover, Newton and Hickory were among the ranks.

The study ranked a total of 123 places. The rankings were based on a set of five criteria that contributed to the overall "young family score."

The rankings were based on a great schools score, median home value, family income growth from 1999 to 2013, median family income in 2013 and percentage of residents who were married with children.

Out of the 123 cities, Conover, Newton and Hickory ranked right in the middle. Conover ranked highest on the list out of the three at number 57, Newton came in at number 60 and Hickory at number 66.

"We continue to strive to do better," said City of Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. "We're never satisfied with the status quo."

Steady growth is easy to see in Conover. From 1999 to 2013, family income has grown by 29.19 percent.

It's certainly no surprise that we're ranked well. Family life has been a focus of ours and it's great to see that our council is getting a validation on their efforts." Moritz said. "I think that the community as a whole seems very happy. We're geared toward preserving and building a good place for families to be. Everything we do is aimed towards economic development and quality of life in the city."

The City of Newton is also proud of its "above the fold" ranking.

"We're excited that Newton is on the list," said City of Newton Public Information Officer Alex Frick. "We have great schools, affordable housing, a variety of restaurants and places to shop along with good proximity to Charlotte,"

Another thing that Newton has going for itself is its percentage of married residents with children. Newton ranked as one of the highest on the list having 17.2 percent of its residents married with kids.

The highest city's "young families score" came in at a 64.44 out of 100. The Hickory metro area came in just roughly 13 points lower than the highest scotre.

Conover had a score of 51.54, Newton with a 51.42 and Hickory with a 50.62.

Overalll Newton and Conover were both proud to see the area on the list.

"We're excited to see our neighbors on the list," Frick said. "Good things are happening here and we're glad to have that."

"Our whole Catawba Valley area is a wonderful place to live and raise a family," Moritz said. "I'm glad other places are recognizing that."

For more information on the rankings, visit http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/cities/best-cities-for-young-families-in-north-carolina-2015/

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