ANCHORAGE -


A new report that compares the cost of living for 306 cities in the country ranks Anchorage the nation's 23rd most expensive, according to 2013 data.

The Anchorage Economic Development Corp. recently released its findings which outline several costs of living in Anchorage, including housing, health care, transportation and groceries. The last category is where Anchorage saw the most improvement, according to Bill Popp, AEDC's president and CEO.

"We're only 13 percent above the national average on groceries in terms of the cost of the national average -- it used to be 26 percent and higher," Popp said.

More development has helped narrow the gap between what Anchorage residents pay for groceries and the national average, according to Popp. The recent East Anchorage openings of a new Sam's Club and Walmart, as well as the remodel of Fred Meyer department stores and the new 36th Avenue location of the Natural Pantry, create a more competitive market.

"We think that's helping to slow down the growth of food costs in Anchorage, to bring them closer in line with national averages," Popp said.

Owners of the brand-new Natural Pantry store say it's expected to open in mid-April, with shelves in the process of being stocked. AEDC says the grocery index contributes to a lower cost of living which in turn, attracts more business in Anchorage.

"Anytime we can be a more comparable city in the cost of living then we've got a better opportunity to attract that investment," Popp said.

Overall, the cost of living in Anchorage is 26 percent higher than the national average.