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Making the Range more welcoming, because apparently there’s some damn test

The Range is the kind of place where tight urban centers are suspended in a great wilderness, buttressed by gigantic mines and thousands of lakes. Good people here, if you get to know them.

Courtesy of Aaron Brown
These are some damn trees by my house. They’re pretty. Hope
that’s good enough for you.

MinnPost’s Marlys Harris pens an interesting piece on what makes a people attached to place in terms of economic growth.

These days, those people most likely to drive the growth of a city, namely young people between the ages of 25 and 34, have reprioritized. Quality of life registers high on their list of necessities. Corporations are finding that increasingly they have to sell talented recruits on the place where they would be relocating as well as the job. She summed up with a thought from Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett: Previously, people went where the jobs were. Now, jobs go where the people are.

We’ve been talking about that here. No reason why northern Minnesota has to be left behind as the economy changes. If we focus on quality of life we can be an attractive option for businesses, entrepreneurs and mobile workers. One of the biggest drivers of loyalty to place: emotional attachment.

So if heartstrings translate hard cash or greater prosperity, what sets them to twanging? The study looked at several factors that might give people satisfaction, for example, health care, schools, housing, highways, safety and so on. But three surprising factors outweighed those practical considerations: aesthetics, social offerings and openness. 
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Aesthetics? That sounds pretty familiar if you read this blog. Social offerings are another area I mention so often as to repeat myself. Openness? Well, that’s tricky. I implore the Range be more open to outside residents, because their arrival is the only way we grow our population and economic prospects. But check out how some companies are gauging the openness of a city before they locate there:

By way of illustration, she mentioned the experience of one city that was trying to convince a corporation to bring its business to town. City leaders learned after the fact that the company had dispatched an undercover team to attend a Little League game (to learn whether parents behaved like adults), to bump into other people’s shopping carts at supermarkets (to see what kind of language they’d hear) and to to sit at green lights (to time how long it took before people in the cars behind started honking). “We are being judged by a whole different metric,” she quotes one city official saying.

Most important is a region’s acceptance of what it is and what it isn’t. I don’t know what would happen if a company sent someone to bump into people’s carts at the grocery store or hold up traffic on Minnesota’s Iron Range. I suspect they’d be ignored, or given icy looks. They might be ignored or given icy looks anyway, but here’s the thing. We’ve heard it all before.

The Range is the kind of place where tight urban centers are suspended in a great wilderness, buttressed by gigantic mines and thousands of lakes. Good people here, if you get to know them. And a great culture that stems from harder times than now. It’s the kind of place where integration is a two-way street. More often than not the place will meet you in the middle. But it won’t dance for your amusement. You should not expect that. That, in itself, might be the quality that appeals to a world of increasing wishy-washiness. 

Anyway, aesthetics, social offerings and openness. Those are actually the three things I find myself spending the most time on in my work and I’d welcome anyone else to join me. Check out Harris’s story. It’s pretty interesting.

This post was written by Aaron J. Brown and originally published on Minnesota Brown. Follow Aaron on Twitter: @minnesotabrown

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