Economy Isn't Key in Residents' Love of Tallahassee

Gallup and Knight Foundation Study Explores What Makes People Emotionally Attached to Tallahassee, other U.S. Communities

TALLAHASSEE (Sept. 29, 2009) – A Gallup study of Tallahassee and 25 other U.S. communities has found that the worst economic crisis in decades is not a key factor in residents' passion and loyalty for their community.

“While the pain from the recession is deep, other factors far outweigh economics when it comes to determining how emotionally attached people are to their communities,” said Warren Wright, managing partner for Gallup, which conducted the study with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Soul of the Community study explores the link between economic growth and residents’ emotional attachment towards where they live. The latest results, from year two of the three-year study, suggest a significant correlation.

Within a smaller microcosm, such as a company, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employee emotional connection leads to the improved financial performance of the organization. Researchers continue to look to determine if the emotional connection to place where one lives drives economic growth for communities in a similar way.

“Local leaders, urban planners and residents can use the study’s results to better understand their community – and strengthen it in order to attract and keep the talent needed for a vibrant city,” Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives, said.

“The findings are particularly important in a globalized economy made more competitive by the economic crisis,” Ellis said. “We hope that the information helps cities like Tallahassee fight for the innovative, creative and productive worker to build healthy communities.”

In Tallahassee, the study has pinpointed three main factors that bind residents to the area. Social offerings (fun places to gather), and openness (how welcoming a place is) are the two dominant factors. This year, basic services (community infrastructure) was also an important element, inching ahead of the community’s aesthetics (physical beauty).

All three need to be strengthened – and leveraged to increase the resident attachment for place especially important for a college town interested in attracting young college grads to put down roots in Tallahassee.

The foundation is already applying the information in the capitol city. For example, Knight Foundation funded the first Tallahassee Film Festival and the Get Gaines Going project, which is revitalizing a main thoroughfare, to help increase social offerings and create a sense of place. In addition, the recently launched Knight Creative Communities Institute is aiming to diversify the local economy in order to entice local college graduates to stay in the area and build a career and life.

“A creative and diverse workforce is the key to Tallahassee’s future. With guidance from the Soul of the Community study, we can continue to find ways to get there by attracting new workers and keeping our local college graduates in town,” said Mike Pate, Knight Foundation’s Tallahassee program director.

The communities surveyed vary in population size, economic levels and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed a representative sample of more than 10,000 adults from Feb. 17 to April 25, 2009, by phone.

The following communities were included in the survey: Aberdeen, S.D., Akron, Ohio, Biloxi, Miss., Boulder, Colo., Bradenton, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Columbus, Ga., Detroit, Mich., Duluth, Minn., Fort Wayne, Ind., Gary, Ind., Grand Forks, N.D., Lexington, Ky., Long Beach, Calif., Macon, Ga., Miami, Fla., Milledgeville, Ga., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Palm Beach, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa., San Jose, Calif., St. Paul, Minn., State College, Pa., Tallahassee, Fla., Wichita, Kan.

Knight Foundation invests in each of the 26 communities where at one time the Knight brothers owned newspapers.

For complete survey findings on Tallahassee, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org/tallahassee.

Track the conversation on Twitter with the tag #SOTC09 and Knight Foundation at twitter.com/knightfdn.

About Gallup

Gallup has studied human nature and behavior for more than 70 years. Gallup's reputation for delivering relevant, timely, and visionary research on what people around the world think and feel is the cornerstone of the organization. Gallup employs many of the world's leading scientists in management, economics, psychology, and sociology, and our consultants assist leaders in identifying and monitoring behavioral economic indicators worldwide. Gallup's 2,000 professionals deliver services at client organizations, through the Web, at Gallup University's campuses, and in 40 offices around the world.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.