BRADENTON, FLA. (Sept. 29, 2009) – A Gallup study of the Bradenton 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.
This year, in fact, as the national and regional economy faltered, emotional attachment to the Bradenton area actually increased – making it the area with the most resident attachment of all those surveyed.
The study pinpointed three main factors that emotionally attach residents to Bradenton: social offerings (fun places to gather)), openness (how welcoming a place is) and aesthetics (an area’s physical beauty and green spaces).
Residents saw social offerings and aesthetics as community strengths – rating the Bradenton area significantly higher in 2009 specifically for its parks, playgrounds and trails and as a good place to make friends and meet people.
“The Bradenton region is one of great physical beauty and it has a strong reputation as a thriving Cultural Coast. These positive characteristics are a source of great pride and passion for area residents,” said Meredith Hector, Bradenton program director for Knight Foundation.
Residents and leaders will have an opportunity to explore the findings during a town hall meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 8 at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Selby Auditorium. Those interesting in attending should register by visiting www.sarasota.usf.edu/ippl or calling the event hotline at 941-359-4602.
“We want to give area residents a variety of opportunities to explore the results of the Soul of the Community study. These opportunities will help us all to better understand what community factors drive individuals' emotional attachment to this area,” Hector said.
Understanding what ties people to their community is important, as the Soul of the Community study explores the link between that attachment and economic growth. The latest results 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.
“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 Bradenton fight for the innovative, creative and productive talent needed to build healthy communities.”
In Bradenton, Knight Foundation is already funding projects with direct ties to the study’s recommendations, including the Realize Bradenton cultural planning process. Realize Bradenton builds on the area’s strengths in aesthetics and social offerings, specifically the area’s cultural, arts and heritage assets. These venues and programs add immeasurably to Bradenton’s identity and vitality – and along with increased retail, restaurants, offices and housing – help the area become even more of an attractive and vibrant destination where people want to live, work, visit and play.
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.
For complete survey findings on Bradenton, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org/bradenton
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.
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.