While the city focuses on job growth and creation, a recent study asserts that attention should be given to passion and love of place instead.
Social offerings, aesthetics and openness are more critical to residents than basic services and economy, according to a three-year Gallup study of Akron in coordination with the Knight Foundation.
(Disclosure: the Akronist and the Akron Digital Media Center are made possible by a Knight Foundation grant.)
Social offerings, like entertainment venues and meeting places; openness, or how welcoming a place is; and aesthetics, like physical beauty and green spaces, correlate with residents’ attachment to their communities, concludes the study, which comprised about 45,000 telephone surveys across 26 cities, including Akron.
And this connection to community has been top of mind for community leaders.
“With our ability to connect with people a world away, our sense of community is changing rapidly,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives. “We really wanted to know what makes place matter.”
Although the economy was not noted as a priority among responses, economic growth is still closely tied to growth in gross domestic product (GDP), which could point to an indirect importance of economy in this equation.
The findings were announced in Akron to a gathering of public officials, community leaders and representatives from the Knight Foundation.
Akron continues to struggle with young people becoming attached to Akron. And young talent is perceived to be the least welcome group among the communities studies, said Katherine Loflin, the study’s lead consultant.
She said it’s not always about the jobs with young talent. In fact, younger professionals are more likely to choose a place before a job, Loflin added. “These people’s attachment is driven by more than a paycheck.”
Some leaders in attendance suggested that the city and other Northeast Ohio communities engage university students before they graduate.
“We need to create a more welcoming environment for young, talented residents who will drive our local economy and growth,” said Jennifer Thomas, Knight Foundation’s program director for Akron.
Local leaders in attendance presented ideas for helping retain young talent in the area.
Young leaders need to become more involved with the “institution,” said Mark Scheffler, executive director of Leadership Akron. “We have a great community to sell to that young families demographic.”
The findings have remained consistent over three years, according to Knight.
For more information, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org.