The information in our study covers the Akron 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 the continuing economic challenges, attachment to the Akron area remains basically flat in 2010.
In the Akron area, social offerings (entertainment infrastructure, places to meet people), aesthetics (an area’s physical beauty and green spaces) and openness (how welcoming a place is to different kinds of people) are the most important factors emotionally connecting residents to where they live.
Aesthetics – particularly the parks, playgrounds and trails – is seen as a strength.
Social offerings continues to be seen as an area needing improvement, even though Akron has had significant gains in the perception of nightlife over the past year. So is openness - it is still rated as least welcoming to job seeking college graduates and significantly less welcome to immigrants in 2010.
Demographic facts: Residents most attached to Akron now tend to earn less than $25,000 per year. Those earning $75,000 or more are the least attached income group. There is little difference in attachment among education levels.
Ratings of the local economy and basic services are significantly higher in 2010; however, the economy still was not an important factor in determining residents’ emotional connection to place. Perception of local leadership was down significantly in 2010.
Thoughts on the 2010 findings in Akron
By Vivian Celeste Neal, Knight Foundation Program Director/Akron (2010)
The Gallup study results for Akron are really not a surprise to those of us who live, work, and enjoy the inviting lifestyle in the Akron community. The study found that our stunning parks have long been a strength for the people of Akron. For many years, we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where you can hop on the Towpath Trail in Akron and ride one of the bike lanes to Cleveland!
Another strength noted in the study is our top notch higher education offerings at our local colleges and universities that have been recognized at the local and national levels. This month, the University of Akron’s inaugural opening of their new Info-Cision football stadium received recognition in the sports arena and will hopefully help to fortify Akron’s economy. Knowing your community strengths is great, but having them confirmed by the Gallup research is icing on the cake!
Now on the flip side, Akron needs to continue to work on new ideas and hear from our thriving Young Professional (YP) population that is involved in the Greater Akron region in a number of ways. Research shows that economy is not the key factor in residents' love for Akron but the study did find that positive feelings do have some connection to local GDP growth over a long period of time. I’d be interested in your thoughts on how we can attract and retain our young people in our area.