Out of Florida’s 410 cities, towns, and villages in the State of Florida, the City of Milton finds itself ranked in the top 20.

A study recently conducted by the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research made the assertion of the city’s progress earlier this year citing population growth, infrastructure improvements, a top-rated school system, and key industrial expansion, led to Milton being ranked No. 17 in Florida.

And it didn’t just happen. A lot of work by a lot of people and a progressive-minded administration went into making it happen.

“It’s all part of the City Council’s plan for Milton to ‘grow the right way’,” says Milton Mayor Guy Thompson.

Even those residents and officials who are making it happen are sometimes taken aback by the progress they themselves have made and how it is measured.

Leading industries, including NAS Whiting Field, expansion activities at Santa Rosa Medical Center, the agricultural industry and the presence of an ever-expanding government complex are some other key factors which have placed the City of Milton in the attractive position that it has achieved.

According to the 2010 census, the City has experienced a 25.3 percent increase in population growth since 2000. There has to be “…something in the water” to have made so many people wish to come here—and stay.

“When it comes to the quality of education students will receive, look no further than Santa Rosa County. Of all the 67 school districts in Florida, Santa Rosa County schools ranked number two as best performing students in the state on FCAT scores. Santa Rosa county schools also have strong athletic programs which are known throughout the area to inspire and unite the community," touts Milton's website.

And the city’s location has a lot going for it.

Attractive beaches, substantially lower property costs, and prolific recreational activities have also played a hand in creating the elevated standing, which the City of Milton enjoys. Russell Harber Landing on the eastern shore of the Blackwater is a great draw for water sports. The park has been expanded with the city connecting it to the Navy’s recreational facilities, constructing pavilions and adding a canoe-kayak, among other improvements have made it a hit with boaters and other water sports

In the city’s downtown core are gems such as the Riverwalk, Carpenter’s Park, and Milton's location on the river, cultural activities such schedule of free concerts, and the presentations made at the Imogene Theatre.

And according to those assessing Milton’s growth, downtown still has much of the historic flavor from 1844 when the city was incorporated.

Downtown is a “tourist district” that attracts investors and businesses that can establish themselves and reduce or even eliminate impact fees and property taxes for five years.

According to its web site the city also is open to newer forms of construction. An example is a building that has a retail store on the first floor, an office on the second floor, and a residence on the third floor.

The city’s council and mayor type government is far from having its head buried in the sand as well. It’s progressive, constantly alert for new ideas, and cooperative in its outlook. Mayor Thompson is eager to draw even more residents to town because a growing population of families in turn will generate more business and more development. This will lead to higher incomes, a concern in a city where a large percentage of the population has low-to-moderate incomes.

Mayor Thompson, City Brian Manager Watkins, and the Milton City Council invite citizen input into government.

Thompson, for one, hopes citizens will continue to express themselves.

“Then city officials will know how to deal with the proposals that make Milton a better community by addressing the challenges that lay before them,” the Mayor said.

A campaign is underway to produce new signs so that folks can better see how to get around town. “It adds a touch of class,” says Planning Manager Randy Jorgensen. “We want to be unique in our own way.”

Wrapping up the basis for the growth designation, it’s no wonder the city is being ranked where it is, according to the Mayor.

No matter what one’s interests are, there is something in the City of Milton that will at least relate to it. Having an attractive city is good for business sources say.

“It makes passersby stop for a meal or some shopping, and it encourages more people to think about living and working in Milton,” Thompson said.

"If they see a city that impresses them, they’re going to remember us,” the Mayor concluded.