Economy Not Key In Residents' Love For the Twin Ports

Gallup and Knight Foundation Study Explores What Makes People Emotionally Attached to the Duluth-Superior Area, other U.S. Communities

DULUTH, MN (Sept. 29, 2009) – A Gallup study of the Duluth-Superior area 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 study pinpointed three key factors that bind residents to the region: social offerings (fun places to gather), openness (how welcoming a place is) and aesthetics (an area’s physical beauty and green spaces.)

Aesthetics, particularly its location on Lake Superior, was seen as a community strength.

Residents, however, said that social offerings and openness – particularly with respect to recent college graduates – need to be improved.

“Residents are drawn to the area because of the beautiful scenery and access to the outdoors,” said Polly Talen, Duluth program director for Knight Foundation. “We need to concentrate on creating more social opportunities and being more welcoming to young adults, in order to fortify the region’s economic future.”

While the current economic crisis doesn't seem to make a difference in residents' love for their community, the study found that positive feelings do have a connection to local economic growth over a longer-term period.

The Soul of the Community study was designed to explore this connection between economic growth and residents’ emotional attachment to their community. The latest results suggest a significant correlation between the two.

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

“The findings are particularly important in a globalized economy made more competitive by the economic crisis,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives. “Local leaders, urban planners and residents can use the study’s results to better understand their community.

“We hope that the information helps places like the Twin Ports fight for the innovative, creative and productive talent needed to build healthy communities.”

Ellis explained that the Knight Foundation has supported projects with direct ties to the study’s recommendations.

One example: the Knight Creative Communities Initiatives, in which teams of residents developed plans to improve the vitality of the Duluth-Superior area. Several efforts that grew out of that work continue to address issues of environmental sustainability, how welcoming the community is to a young talented workforce and how connected artists are to the business community.

In addition, Knight’s support of community development efforts includes funding for Duluth to create a Unified Development Code that will streamline the steps that developers must go through in order to build in the community while creating strong standards that will preserve neighborhood vitality. The new zoning code will help address a problem identified repeatedly by local residents: current law makes it difficult to create the very kind of places most likely to improve social offerings, such as art galleries, cafes and theaters.

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. In the Duluth-Superior Area, the study surveyed the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of St. Louis County, all of Carlton County, and all of Douglas County, Wisconsin.

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.

For complete survey findings on Duluth, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org.

Follow Soul of the Community on Twitter: #SOTC09.

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.