State College, Pennsylvania

The information in our study covers the State College, Pennsylvania, Metropolitan Statistical Area.

In each community, the Knight Soul of the Community study identified factors that emotionally attach residents to where they live. Some of these community characteristics that drive attachment were rated highly by residents, and are therefore community strengths while others were rated lower, making them opportunities for improvement. This information can provide communities a roadmap for increasing residents’ emotional attachment to where they live, which the study found has a significant relationship to economic vitality.

Despite continuing economic challenges, attachment to the State College area is trending higher in 2010. This is mostly because all of the key drivers for attachment are rated significantly higher this year.

In the State College area, social offerings (entertainment infrastructure, places to meet people, community events), openness (how welcoming the place is) and aesthetics (an area's physical beauty and green spaces) are the most important factors emotionally connecting residents to where they live.

All three drivers are perceived as community strengths and were rated significantly higher in 2010. The availability of social community events is the highest rated aspect of social offerings, and natural beauty is the highest rated aspect of aesthetics, although perceptions of parks, playgrounds and trails increased in 2010 as well.

The area’s openness – it’s rated most welcoming for families with children and least welcoming to young talent – is also a strength this year. Ratings of welcomeness to gays and lesbians and racial and ethnic minorities were significantly higher this year.

Perception of the local education system, a close number-four driver in attachment was also rated significantly higher in 2010, thanks to an improved rating of K-12 public schools.

Although they are not key drivers of attachment, perceptions of basic services, the local economy and leadership are significantly higher this year.

Knight Soul of the Community 2010: State College Implications

The purpose of Knight Soul of the Community is to provide communities a roadmap for understanding what attaches residents to their community and why it matters – not to be prescriptive on what communities should do with the information. However, the findings do point to some general implications and suggestions, some of which the community may be already undertaking, or provide new opportunities for consideration.

Like the other 25 communities studied in Soul of the Community, State College’s key attachment drivers are social offerings, aesthetics and openness. However, it is not as simple as identifying best practices in each of these areas and replicating them everywhere. Instead, as the name implies, Soul of the Community encourages a conversation about a community’s soul or essential essence as a place around these key drivers. Some possible questions to ask are: What is it about our aesthetics/social offerings/welcomeness that is unique to our community? Where do we excel or struggle in those areas? Using that information to optimize those drivers to encourage resident attachment—and potentially local economic growth – is what Soul of the Community seeks to accomplish.

Attachment to State College increased each year of the study, and it became the most attached community in 2010. This finding alone helps to demonstrate that attachment to place is about more than jobs and the economy. The things that most attach residents to the area – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained the same during all three years of the study, and the rating of these areas has increased as well.

State College has many strengths and positive momentum contributing to its increased attachment. All three of the key drivers for attachment increased and are rated significantly higher by residents in 2010 – a unique finding among the 26 communities studied. Overall satisfaction, a component of attachment, is also rated significantly higher by residents in 2010. Together, these strengths provide powerful leverage to continue to build attachment to the State College area.

Despite these strengths, State College has areas it could work on to further increase attachment. Leading them is perceived welcomeness to young talent, which is the only key driver of attachment that decreased during the study. There is a big difference between perceived openness to young talent and all other groups studied. Although the 18-34-year-old age group is not the least attached age group, it agrees with the rest of the community in saying that young talent is the least welcome group in the community. As a college town interested in avoiding brain drawn and rebuilding the local economy, this is an area that deserves attention.

More has to be done to attract and retain the young people coming to State College for an education. Make sure that they get to know State College as a place of beauty, social offerings and openness. These key drivers matter the most to them in creating attachment to place. Provide off-campus social opportunities in the heart of the community that present the best the community has to offer. Also, engage young professionals and include them as a critical part of community leadership.

The community foundation, chamber of commerce and other leadership groups should use the findings from Soul of the Community and integrated them into the State College brand. These findings certainly separate this community from others as a destination community. Leadership should examine and identify why residents are feeling so much more positive about the key drivers for attachment to assure that this momentum is understood and maintained. Harnessing and maintaining the power of residents’ attachment keeps them invested in the community, both emotionally and financially, and serves to attract others to the area. This will make a big difference in the economic rebuilding that the St. Paul area, like all U.S. communities, are working toward.

Residents say county lacks social offerings -

From the Centre Daily Times:

Most Centre County residents think they live in a beautiful place with a good university, but aren’t as happy with the area’s openness and social offerings, according to a survey looking at residents’ attachment to the area.

Gallup conducted the telephone survey of about 400 residents for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It’s part of a larger project that includes surveys of 25 other communities where the foundation is active.

Marc Fest, vice president for communications, said the goal of the survey is to improve the quality of life in the communities. He said leaders can use the information when deciding where to invest resources.