Located just a half hour northeast of downtown Detroit, Sterling Heights is not only one of Money magazine's recent "Top 100 Best Places to Live" but also one of the top 100 cities named by Best Life magazine as "Best Places to Raise a Family."
Starting off in the 19th century as Sterling Township, a prosperous farming community, the area had a sudden population surge in the 1950s with the arrival of Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Corp., and an LTV missile plant. Incorporated in 1968, Sterling Heights continued to grow rapidly-nearly doubling its population in the next 10 years (from 62,000 to 109,000). The town has a relatively low level of diversity, with minorities comprising less than 10 percent of the population.
With slower but steady growth since 1980, Sterling Heights is now home to 126,000 residents and 3,500 commercial and industrial businesses. And in spite of economic difficulties in the state of Michigan, a recent study released by American City Business Journals ranks Sterling Heights seventh in the nation on a list of U.S. cities experiencing the least socioeconomic stress. Today family life thrives in Sterling Heights, where the Sterlingfest Art and Jazz Fair draws 100,000 visitors annually and the Sterling Heights City Center has been nominated as one of America's Great Community Places and Public Spaces (Project for Public Spaces).
Sterling Heights residents take an active part in community affairs. More than half returned the town's 2006 Residential Survey, which showed approval rates of 90 percent or more for city services and quality of life. This high level of satisfaction reflects the fact that Sterling Heights continues to rank as the safest city in Michigan (based on recent FBI statistics). Sterling Heights has been named as a "Tree City USA" by the Arbor Day Foundation in every year since 1985.
The Sterling Heights Community Foundation works with businesses and citizens to fund programs that provide a wide range of recreational, educational, and cultural activities. The Foundation supports projects to preserve historical areas, develop public facilities and parks, and encourage civic action.
Because Sterling Heights did not have a "downtown," a City Center was designed and developed to create a community gathering place. The complex includes the city hall, a library, a cultural center, an indoor landscaped atrium with water garden, and a sculpture garden.
Most of Sterling Heights (along with several other nearby towns) is served by Utica Community Schools, which administers 29 elementary schools, seven junior high schools, four high schools and an early childhood educational center. The district also has the Utica Center for Applied Learning; the Utica Center for Math, Science and Technology; an instructional resource center and a training and development center.
Historically, the auto industry dominated economic conditions in Sterling Heights, and that trend is evolving due to recent difficulties in the industry.
The city is also emphasizing diversification to maintain a high level of economic opportunity and efforts are paying off:
On the environmental front, two Sterling Heights facilities (the Chrysler assembly plant and Ford's Van Dyke Transmission plant) have been recognized by the Department of Environmental Quality for a ten-year record of Clean Corporate Citizen (C3) status.
Sterling Heights, working with Macomb County and Oakland University, is implementing the area's first SmartZone. SmartZones enable cities to create business incubators that provide services and support for startup companies, including office space and access to laboratories.
Sterling Heights is primarily a residential and business community, but the city is located close to many attractions in Detroit and surrounding areas. There are a few local activities, however, including:
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