What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? How does our community of Ponca City rate as a attractive community to live in and what does this mean for the future of all of us who live here?
A new study by the Knight Foundation shows that there are three primary drivers that create emotional bonds between people and their community and they are consistent in virtually every city. Interestingly, the usual suspects — jobs, the economy, and safety — are not among the top three drivers. Rather, people consistently give higher ratings for elements that relate directly to their daily quality of life: aa community’s openness to all people, opportunities for socializing, and an area’s physical beauty. But the most remarkable conclusion of the three-year Gallup survey of 26 US cities, is that the communities with highest levels of resident attachment — a person's passion for where he or she lives — also had the highest rates of GDP growth over time.
According to the study there are three qualities that are leading drivers for attachment to a home city: how accepting a community is of diversity, its wealth of social offerings, and its aesthetics. Let's look at these three factors one by one.
Matt Thompson writes that according to the study, the number one trait in determining residents' attachment to a community is openness. To get at this trait, researchers asked whether the community was a "good place for" different groups of people - senior citizens, racial and ethnic minorities like our Hispanic residents, Native Americans and African Americans, families with kids, gays and lesbians, college graduates, and immigrants from other countries. Unfortunately, Openness is the most difficult to improve. "After all, civic leaders can fix up highways and freeways, create parks and bike trails, make housing more affordable, encourage the development of fun nightlife corridors, and work to lower crime - we have recognized public policy levers to address all of these community needs," writes Thompson. "But how does a community make itself more welcoming? Laws and policies can only go so far in addressing this perception."
Researchers asked residents questions about how fun and social their communities are - Is there vibrant nightlife? Is it a good place to meet people and make friends? How much do residents seem to care about each other? When the study talks about social offerings, it means offerings for residents from a number of demographics, not just the young, single urbanites that we think of when we hear words like "nightlife." We need to ask ourselves what Ponca City has to to offer people of a wide range of ages, marital statuses and incomes?
An area's aesthetics are one of the first things we talk about when we say why we love a place. It means how not just the area's parks, playgrounds and trails and but how residents rate the overall beauty and physical setting of their hometown. It turns out a pretty city is a lovable city.
New Approaches to Attract Business
“This survey offers new approaches for communities to organize themselves to attract businesses (PDF), keep residents and holistically improve their local economic vitality,” says Gallup deputy director Jon Clifton. "Our theory is that when a community’s residents are highly attached, they will spend more time there, spend more money; they’re more productive and tend to be more entrepreneurial." The findings "point to a new perspective that we encourage leaders to consider," says Paula Ellis of the Knight Foundation. "It is especially valuable as we aim to strengthen our communities during this tough economic time.”
Read the whole report for some thought provoking insights on what Ponca City can do to become a more attractive community for newcomers and a more pleasant community for long time residents.
References: Why People Love Where They Live and Why It Matters (PDF). A Report by the Knight Foundation.
Top Photo: Mayor Homer Nicholson speaks at the unveiling of the Pioneer Woman Models at the Marland Mansion. Photo: Hugh Pickens
Bottom Photo: Ponca City residents enjoy a Monster Truck Rally at the Rodeo Fairgrounds in July 2010. Photo: Hugh Pickens