Got Love For Macon? It May Create Economic Growth, Gallup Study Says.

Gallup-Knight Foundation study finds unexpected factors cause people to love where they live; suggests new approaches to improving communities.

MACON, Ga. (Nov. 15, 2010) – A three-year Gallup study of Macon and 25 other U.S. cities has found that people’s love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth. Surprisingly, social offerings, openness and beauty are far more important to Macon residents than their perceptions of the local economy or basic services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community.

The 26 cities in the survey with the highest levels of resident love and passion for their community, or resident attachment, also had the highest rates of local GDP growth over time.

“This study is important because its findings about emotional attachment to place point to a new perspective that we encourage leaders to consider; it is especially valuable as we aim to strengthen our communities during this tough economic time,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives.

“This survey offers new approaches for communities to organize themselves to attract businesses, keep residents and holistically improve their local economic vitality,” said Jon Clifton, deputy director of the Gallup World Poll, who conducted the survey with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Three community qualities – social offerings, openness and beauty – have consistently emerged as the leading drivers for community attachment in Macon and in the other communities studied over the study’s three years of research. They beat out other possible drivers such as perceptions of local economy, leadership and safety.

Aesthetics continues to be a community strength of Macon as perceived by its residents, particularly the beauty of the natural setting. Aesthetics is rated highest by new residents, who have lived in the community for three years or less.

Opportunities to increase resident attachment to the Macon area include improving resident perceptions of openness. Young talent continues to be perceived as the least welcome group, and perceived welcoming of seniors and families with children were rated significantly lower in 2010. Another opportunity for increasing attachment is improving resident perception of social offerings, although nightlife is rated significantly higher in 2010.

Residents living in the city of Macon are more attached than the rest of the area surveyed.

“The third year of this study shows us that there are still some specific things Macon can do to be a more attractive community to young talent and a diverse workforce,” said Beverly Blake, Knight Foundation’s program director for Macon. “Several of the initiatives Knight Foundation is working on specifically address the important drivers that attach residents to Macon, such as aesthetics and social offerings, and in time we’ll see that they will be source of great pride for our residents.”

The Knight Soul of the Community survey explores the connection between local economic growth and people’s emotional bond to a place. Three years of survey data clearly show a significant, positive link between resident attachment and local GDP growth.

“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,” Clifton said. “The study bears out that theory and now provides all community leaders the knowledge they need to make a sustainable impact on their community.”

Within a smaller environment, such as a business, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employees' emotional connection to their company leads to improved financial performance of the organization. Experts continue to explore whether the emotional connection to the place where one lives drives economic growth for these communities in a similar way. Gallup’s previous work in U.S. communities and abroad shows that in fact emotional connection does drive economic growth.

Despite declines in the economy since the study was begun in 2008, the researchers found some surprising constants:

  • The things that create the greatest emotional connection between people and a community – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained stable for three years and are consistent among the 26 cities studied. These three things reliably had the strongest connection of the 10 community qualities that attach residents to place, which also included: civic involvement, social capital, education, perception of the local economy, leadership, safety, emotional well-being and basic services.
  • The link between local GDP and residents’ emotional bonds to a place has remained steady despite declines in the economy over the three years of the study. Communities with higher percentage of attached residents also show higher levels of economic growth.
  • Job-seeking college graduates are perceived to be one of the least welcome groups across the 26 communities.
  • Perception of the local economy is not a leading reason residents create an emotional bond to a place.

The cities surveyed were chosen because the Knight brothers owned newspapers in those cities. They vary in population size, economic levels and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed 43,000 adults by phone from 2008 to 2010.

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.; and Wichita, Kan.

For information or to share comments about the Macon community results, contact Beverly Blake, Knight Foundation’s program director for Macon at blake@knightfoundation.org.

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

Follow Knight Soul of the Community on Twitter: #SOTC.

Join us on Facebook: facebook.com/soulofthecommunity.

 

 

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 informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

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.

Contact: Paul Wiseman, Email: pwiseman@jeffreygroup.com, Phone: (O) 305-860-1000, ext. 124 or (C) 407-463-6470

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.