The information in our study covers the Milledgeville, Georgia, Micropolitan 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.
The Milledgeville area experienced a significant drop in overall resident attachment to the community in 2010. This seems primarily due to significant drops in ratings of many of the key things that tie residents to the area.
In the Milledgeville 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.
Aesthetics is perceived to be a community strength, but it was rated significantly lower in 2010. Natural beauty continues to be rated higher than parks, playgrounds and trails.
Social offerings and openness continue to need improvement to further attach residents to the area. Social offerings was rated significantly lower in 2010. Perceptions of openness remained steady. While residents cited opportunities to meet people as the highest-rated aspect of social offerings, the availability of arts and culture opportunities was the lowest-rated aspect.
The Milledgeville area is perceived to be most welcoming for seniors, and least welcoming for college grads and significantly less welcome to racial and ethnic minorities in 2010.
Although they are not key drivers for attachment, perceptions of basic services, safety, leadership and social capital are significantly lower in 2010.
Knight Soul of the Community 2010: Milledgeville 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, Milledgeville’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 the Milledgeville area decreased significantly in 2010. The things that most attach residents to the area – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have stayed consistent, but residents’ ratings of these areas have slipped, especially the perception of social offerings and aesthetics, which are rated significantly lower in 2010.
Aesthetics continues to be a strength for the Milledgeville area to leverage. Young residents 18-34 years old rate aesthetics a little better than all other age groups. This is something to build on in an effort to attract and retain young people to the community. Identify what young residents like best about the aesthetics (recreational or social opportunities, place where the community feels open and welcoming) and highlight those aspects of the area’s aesthetics.
Use every opportunity to intertwine the key drivers in one event. Find ways to use aesthetics to serve as a backdrop for social offerings and events that are welcoming to all people and encourage resident caring and attachment to the area. Have long-time residents tell oral histories about the Milledgeville area that provide a sense of the place. Understand the community through their eyes as a way to build attachment by leveraging aesthetics to provide opportunities for positive social interaction showcasing the good people that live there (social offerings), where all feel welcome (openness) which may help to facilitate resident caring and (re)grow the seeds of attachment to the community.
There are positives in the Milledgeville area to build on and grow attachment in order to attract new residents to the area, but the community must create a plan of action, based on the findings from Soul of the Community. The community now knows what will build attachment to Milledgeville and bring new people to the area, and although jobs may be part of the equation, it is clearly not the entire equation. Soul of the Community findings and the implications/suggestions offered here and by others must be integrated as part of the community’s economic rebuilding/community development strategy. Milledgeville may first have to become more of an optimized community, making it more attractive to the businesses the community wants to attract. Champions whose love of Milledgeville and ability to make things happen are best suited to lead this charge.