Soul of the Community study asks, 'Why do we love Myrtle Beach?' (update: follow-up)

TheDigitel Myrtle Beach

Update September 16th: Knight Foundation's Paula Ellis and consultant Katherin Loflin helped us understand the numbers.

The Soul of the Community study set out to see if it was even possible to measure how people feel about their community. As it turns out, it can be measured and profoundly correlated to economic development. 

The full study and results are online. But here are a couple takeaways for Myrtle Beach:

  • Overall community attachment is above average compared to the entire list of communities surveyed, but Myrtle Beach is in the middle of the "low urban density communities" segment. 
  • High income residents (earning more than $70,000 per year) have a high attachment to our community. Low income residents have an extremely low attachment- they are ready to leave town as soon as possible. This hasn't always been in the case. In 2009, all income levels agreed and were relatively attached to the community.
  • Perception is we are a good place for older residents and young adults without children. Young talent, a key economic development demographic, are the least welcome here.
  • We should be more open to a diversity of lifestyles and backgrounds. More frequent cultural learning events and festivals can help improve the the perception of openness.
  • We should do more to imrpove the perception of the quality of education we provide. 

WMBF News also covered the presentation. See that here.

First Report: Those of us that truly love our community are willing to put the effort into improving it. Others just move away.  

Soul of the Community is an ongoing study by the Knight Foundation in partnership with Gallup that seeks to explore and understand what aspects of a community make it's citizens feel connected to it. As a Co-Founder of TheDigitel Myrtle Beach, affecting positive change for Myrtle Beach is of particular interest to me. Coastal Carolina University will be hosting a public meeting this Thursday at Wall Auditorium to discuss this study. The event is free but you must reserve a spot by email. 

The study has several factors that have been identified as key drivers for community attachment. These include: Economy, Safety, Leadership, Openness, and Civic Involvement. Understanding the chemistry of community attachment can greatly impact economic growth and development. Even though they are no longer a Knight-Ridder paper, The Sun News has been an active participant of the study through community engagement and reporting. Read more here and here.

Myrtle Beach has been included in the 26-market study since 2008. In the 2010 wrap-up report, Myrtle Beach showed a decline in attachment. 

The Myrtle Beach area should optimize and market its strengths in aesthetics and social offerings as a particularly powerful and defining feature of that place. The community should focus on leveraging these important strengths to target perceptions of welcomeness in the community, especially to young talent. For attachment to really grow and for people to want to come to and stay in Myrtle Beach, all residents must feel welcomed there and cared for.

Openness continues to be challenge area for the community. It is an area where the community lost ground in 2010, according to its residents.  Again, this helps to explain the area’s declining attachment.  Older residents continue to be perceived as the most welcome group by far with a large difference between this group and all others in the community.  Young talent continues to be perceived as the least welcome group with more declines in 2010.