A Gallup Poll titled “Soul of the Community” sought to explore the link between residents’ attachment to their cities and economic growth. The quick conclusion: the more attached citizens felt to their city the better the economic health of that city.
We know businesses that inspire loyalty and passion among employees are economically stronger. In fact this seems to be commonsense, you’re supposed to treat your employees well. And customer loyalty is paramount to the success of any business. So it should be no surprise that the same may hold true for cities.
We some other pertinent numbers as well. A full 68% spent at a local independent business stays in the local economy while closer to 40% spent at non-local businesses stays. That by itself is incredible. What it means is that if St. Lousians simply spent 10% more at local independent businesses the local economy would receive an additional $140M and add more than 1,000 jobs. The people at Build St. Louis know this and are working hard to connect local independent businesses and promote keeping more money in the local economy.
So how do you capture old-fashioned civic pride and whatever it is that the “creative class” wants? Cities have turned to dog parks, bike paths and young professional networking opportunities, among other things. Of course one cannot “prove” a causal relationship, but the study found that communities with the highest proportion of “attached citizens” were also the healthiest economically.
It may be tempting to conclude that cities that are healthier economically simply have more loyal residents, but the study also found that resident’s did not identify perception of the region’s economic health as a key factor in loyalty, but instead focused on social amenities, diversity and aesthetics.
The study also found that young and highly educated individuals rated themselves as the least attached to their communities. This may not be surprising as young and educated individuals may have moved for a first job out of college, are less likely to have families and have simply lived in a location for a shorter period of time.
The good news for some may be that this is the “creative class” and if they do not feel tied to their current community, it stands to reason that they may be lured away by a city that offers more. Why can’t St. Louis be this city?
St. Louis was not included in the study, but the premise invites many questions about our community. On one hand I find St. Louisians to be incredibly loyal and attached, but I also experience a negativism by residents towards the St. Louis community that I have not experienced elsewhere.
Where do you think St. Louisians rate on passion and loyalty to St. Louis? Is this different if we’re talking about the city or county? East side or St. Charles?