The Bradenton Herald's editorial board weighed in on Knight's 2009 survey by Gallup:
Hometown pride points to growth potential | Exploit link between economy, resident loyaltyOctober 1, 2009
Manatee County's determination to diversify the economy and attract new business received a major boost this week. Bradenton's top ranking in a Gallup study, funded by the Knight Foundation and entitled "Soul of the Community," should help convince business prospects that this is indeed the right place to locate their enterprise.
Gallup surveyed 25 other American communities to identify the reasons why residents become emotionally bonded to their town. Thanks to a surge in community passion and loyalty in 2009, the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice region scored highest of all for emotional attachment. The rise in ratings for three key factors fueled that score: our appreciation of local social offerings, the area's natural beauty and our friendly and open nature.
Not even the sour economy, the worst in decades, could dampen our enthusiasm - even though unemployment took the top spot as the most important problem among survey respondents.
The study also found a strong connection between emotional attachment and economic vitality, suggesting communities can improve the latter by increasing the former. Happy residents make the best employees. Those workers boost the financial performance of businesses. Stronger companies spur a community's economic growth. Pretty simple stuff.
To bring that line of thinking back to the beginning, how can Bradenton score even higher on the resident passion and loyalty meter?
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation points to Realize Bradenton, the broad vision for a vibrant downtown complete with additional social offerings and cultural options, which, in turn, would increase retail, housing and office opportunities and thus the economy, and ultimately build upon that passion for place. This looks like the proverbial field of dreams. Build it and they will come.
The foundation also provided financial support for Realize Bradenton, a blueprint for cultural improvements and downtown revival created by residents at numerous gatherings. Implementation began some five months ago.
Some of the findings in Soul of the Community point to challenges ahead.
The region scored poorly on the availability of affordable housing, current employment opportunities and whether community leaders represent citizen interests.
Bradenton also rated low on being a good place for talented college graduates.
A community discussion on the study will be held next week, and we encourage citizens to check out the 21-page report on Bradenton beforehand (details at the end of the story).
The end game of Soul of the Community - the 2009 study is the second installment of a three-year project - is helping communities thrive.
Gallup researchers have discovered that communities with greater proportions of loyal and passionate residents have produced stronger economic growth over the past five years.
This new report shows Bradenton's potent potential for economic gains. This also hands our economic development leaders and business recruitment team a powerful tool to help achieve that goal.
Survey results can be found online at www.soulofthecommunity.org/bradenton. A town hall forum on the study will be held Oct. 8 at 5 p.m. at the Selby Auditorium at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Interested parties can register by calling 359-4602 or by visiting www.sarasota.usf.edu/ippl.
Copyright 2009 The Bradenton Herald