Loving the Place You Live
People who love the place they live will make that place better in all ways. That was the simple message that Melody Warnick, author of the book This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, delivered at this year’s Altoona Blair County Development Corporation annual meeting. Getting people to that place and then having them to fall in love with it is the real trick.
Attracting and retaining talent is our number one economic development priority. And that really has always been the case. When you peal back old labels like “targeted industry,” “business recruitment” or “corporate relocation” – behind each of those words are people. People who make decisions about where to live and work for a variety of complex reasons.
It’s people who fuel our existing business base, start up new businesses and invest in others. In the coming years, many job opportunities in our region will result both from retirements and net new opportunities. By all accounts most of those people will move here from outside our community. Some will be coming back to the place they grew up, while others will be coming here for the first time. Most will be younger and have very different demands, expectations and family structures.
How we present ourselves. How we communicate. The words we choose. The actions we take and the projects we invest in will make the difference between if they come here to visit – work – stay – put down roots – and celebrate this “First Frontier” as the home they love.
Melody noted that 66 percent of all next generation workers (the millennials) will choose where they want to live first and then look for or create their own employment opportunity. These folks will move an average of 11.7 times in their lifetime. Technology has enabled them to do just that. Sociologist Richard Florida, who wrote the book The Rise of the Creative Class, divided the world into three kinds of people when it comes to geographic mobility: 1) Mobile – moving all the time, 2) Stuck – due job, finances or family, and 3) Rooted – happy where you are and want to stay. Melody’s research focuses on the question, how do you move the first two groups into that latter.
Melody shared three components for success to do just that. The first was “Social Offerings.” Communities need to provide and promote opportunities for people to gather, engage, share and celebrate all things from politics, food festivals and pop-up art events. Second is “Aesthetics.” Communities must present themselves in an appealing and relevant way by reducing blight, improving structures, maintaining civic spaces, and providing for active transportation options – all which tell a story about the state of a community – does one care or not. And the third is “Openness.” How welcoming a community is and the ease of which people of all races, backgrounds and points of view to assimilate into a community can directly impact on how quickly they become rooted – or not.
Attracting people and having them become rooted to a place increases the chances they will stay, invest, start-a business, join a business or bring a business. This is our goal. Join the conversation by visiting www.yourfirstfrontier.com and like our Facebook page.