Inside Guide: Why Worcester is Called Wormtown

Saturday, March 31, 2012
Susan Wagner GoLocalWorcester Contributor

All too often, I hear someone local refer to Worcester as Wormtown and usually not with affection or in an historical sense. I thought the Worcester Inside Guide was the perfect forum to dispel some common myths, for residents themselves, about Worcester being an inferior city.

First of all Wormtown is actually a badge of honor and part of Worcester’s cultural history. It was coined by a local DJ, a couple of decades ago, to refer to the thriving underground music scene. 

Worcester, a five-time recipient of the All-American City Award, is a diverse and extremely livable city. The second largest city in New England, Worcester provides its residents with the best of both worlds. The intimate, affordable and manageable scale of a small city is balanced with all the benefits of big city life. 

The city is also continually in the national spotlight as a top place to live and work. Forbes.com hailed Worcester as No. 9 in its "America’s Most Livable Cities" survey based on income growth; crime rate; unemployment; cost of living; and culture in American cities with populations of more than 500,000. 

The accolades don’t stop there. CNN Money named Worcester to one of the top 100 best places to live and launch. BusinessWeek recognized the city as No. 9 in its “Best Cities for Generation Ys” survey and a smart choice for their future success. 

Sperling’s Best Places lists it as a Bargain Education and Arts Mecca with good reason. World-class museums, restored theatres, large concert venues, galleries by emerging and established artists, open air concerts and arts in the parks, create a vibrant and varied cultural life. 

According to the official website for Worcester, “One is hard pressed to find another city of comparable size with a greater concentration of world-class colleges and universities. Worcester, with its population of 181,045, is home to 10 colleges and universities (a half-dozen more in neighboring communities), including the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, College of the Holy Cross, Clark University, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.”

Worcester is also among the top New England cities for an educated workforce. Over 36 percent of residents between the ages of 25 and 34 have a bachelors or post-graduate degree. 

American City Business Journals has ranked Worcester in the top 50 in its small business vitality rankings. Worcester also made Coldwell Banker’s list as most affordable housing market in Massachusetts.

Workers also seem to have found a good home in Worcester. Recently, it was announced by Forbes.com that Worcester holds the number two spot for one of the happiest places for workers. Employees all over the country were asked to evaluate 10 factors that affect workplace happiness. They evaluated each factor on a five-point scale and also indicated how important it was to their overall happiness.

As the healthcare crisis continues to escalate across the country, Worcesterites have access to some of the best. A recent study conducted by Commonwealth Fund found Worcester is tied with Boston for having the best access to health care across the nation. In addition, UMMS is ranked eighth in primary care education and ranked 53rd in research among the nation’s 125 medical schools in the 2011 U.S. News & World Report annual guide, “America’s Best Graduate Schools”.

Named as one of CNN Money’s Biotech Hotspots, the city is home to over 100 biotechnology companies and has garnered a world-wide reputation as a leading center for healthcare research and development. Craig C. Mello was a UMass professor when he won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. 

The city’s official site says it best, “The men and women who work at these companies and colleges - health care professionals, researchers, educators, business professionals and hundreds of small business owners - also make up the families that are the heart of Worcester's many safe and close-knit neighborhoods. With its affordable housing... quality public schools... access to diverse and highly-acclaimed arts, sports, restaurants and entertainment... reliable local and regional public transportation... Worcester truly is a city that offers its residents, and resident businesses, the best of both large and small cities.”

Susan D. Wagner is a Worcester resident and president of Susan Wagner PR, a boutique public relations firm invested in meeting client's goals with integrity and creativity. She is also Managing Partner for The Boston Ad Agency and Director of Corporate Communications for Boston Web Designers.

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