It's sometimes hard to get top business executives to locate to Minnesota -- what with the cold weather and progressive income taxes -- but once they've lived here awhile, it's even harder to get them to leave. I've heard some version of that story many times in business quarters, most recently at a BioBusiness event in Rochester.
Those of us who have lived elsewhere have theories about this. And my own conviction is that our attractiveness and our affection for this place is built on a stronger sense of community, inclusiveness and economic fairness than exists in other places. We simply have had better public stuff, better schools, better parks and trails, better infrastructure overall, more publicly supported arts and cultural amenities, which all adds up to a state and cities that are classier and cooler than other places, not just colder (but I like that bracing climate too). And in the end, it makes for a better business climate too, owing to a more productive and creative workforce. More clues as to how this is true can be found in the Knight Foundation's lastest study, The Soul of the Community, which measures 26 U.S. cities from this refreshingtly distinct perspective: how attached citizens are to their place, and why. News articles on the study were published in the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the two papers offer interesting variations on the essential findings of the study. Here's the bottom line of the report summary itself, as to why people become attached to their community:
While the economy is obviously the subject of much attention, the study has found that perceptions of the local economy do not have a very strong relationship to resident attachment. Instead, attachment is most closely related to how accepting a community is of diversity, its wealth of social offerings, and its aesthetics.
And this excerpt from Chris Havens' STrib story adds a little texture to the analysis.
St. Paul is a city that has welcomed poetry stamped into its sidewalks, a photography exhibit along bustling University Avenue and various music and ethnic festivals. "It's a cool place to live," (Mayor Chris) Coleman said. "It's a unique place to live." Sue Buchholz walked her Yorkie, Pandy, in downtown St. Paul's Rice Park on Monday. She moved into a downtown condo within the last year. "I knew this is where I wanted to be," she said. "There's always something to do." She made a sweeping motion with her arm, pointing to the Central Library, Ordway Center for Performing Arts and Landmark Center. A few blocks away runs the Mississippi River, which attracts joggers, bicyclists and others interested in the nature along the banks. There are more bike lanes and trails than ever before in the Twin Cities and suburbs.
We've known about this comparative advantage from our better public stuff for some time. We hope our new leaders in the governor's office and the Legislature do not lose sight of this bedrock economic asset when they begin to balance the budget shortfall next year. (And by the way, the Knight report suggests that we are not that high in our regard for our leaders).