MANATEE — Based on a Gallup survey of 26 communities nationwide, the Manatee-Sarasota area topped the list on resident attachment to their community.
Area leaders were presented the encouraging results Thursday night.
“This is a big deal, a very big deal,” Katherine Loflin, lead consultant for the Soul of the Community Project told community leaders and residents gathered at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
The Soul of the Community Project is in the second of a three-year study period during which resident attitudes are being sampled in communities including St. Paul, Minn., Long Beach, Calif., Philadelphia and Detroit.
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Driving Bradenton and the rest of Manatee-Sarasota to the top of resident attachment was the quality of social offerings, aesthetics of the community and the openness, or friendliness, of the community, Loflin said.
In fact, 43 percent of respondents said they are highly attached to the community, well above the norm in other communities. The survey results were based on 15-minute phone interviews with 400 local residents. The survey was conducted Feb. 17 through April 25, 2009.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said he couldn’t be more pleased that his community “finished at the top of the heap.”
David Klement, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Leadership, and former editorial page editor for the Herald, said, “Manatee is a pretty darn nice place to be.”
Surprisingly, the slumping economy did not seem to factor one way or the other.
But Loflin did say workers are tending to hang on to their jobs, and the tight times might be causing local people to get reacquainted with their own community, finding plenty to like in the beauty of beaches, multitude of parks and social opportunities.
Looking at the Bradenton data, Loflin said, “things are going in the right direction.”
But she urged community leaders not to rest on their laurels, and instead work hard to improve weaker areas.
About 60 percent of those 65 and older said they were happy with the openness of the community, a strength. But on the other end of the spectrum, only about 7 percent of young, talented college graduates said they were satisfied.
“I would pay attention to this,” Loflin said, adding that as the economy improves, communities will be challenged to hang on to their most talented workforce members.
“The code you have to crack is how to maintain what is wonderful and to move forward,” she said.
The common denominator in the survey is that each of the 26 communities surveyed were once owned by the Knight-Ridder company. Each continues to benefit from the Knight Foundation that works for the betterment of the communities and provided funding for the Soul project.
For more information on the results, visit www. soulofthecommunity.org.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 748-0411, ext. 7021.