Katherine Loflin residency recap: the twin cities’ openness problem

by: Jay Walljasper
This is an excerpt from a story that appeared in The Line on July 17, 2013. Read the full story. The Funders Collaborative was a sponsoring organization for this 2nd annual placemaking residency. 
In May, urbanist and placemaking consultant Katherine Loflin, a Ph.D. researcher who did a landmark study on 26 metropolitan regions, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, came to town as part of the 2nd Annual Placemaking Residency, sponsored by a host of local organizations.
At ten different events around town, Loflin emphasized that placemaking, which means paying close attention to creating great places in our communities, is central to economic success in the 21st century. “Place has earned a place at the economic development table,” she said at a forum organized by the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation—and repeated in one form or another to audiences of business leaders, public officials, community activists, researchers, arts groups, entrepreneurs, and neighborhood residents.
I did a followup interview with Loflin recently to garner her sense of what the Twin Cities needs to do and where it needs to go to retain and increase its economic vitality as the century unfolds. There’s good news and some not-so-good news.
We’re thriving thanks to our multiple cultural offerings and our grand outdoor opportunities. But in one area—openness—Loflin notes that we have a way to go. And openness, she says, may be the key category in attracting and retaining the diverse young talent we need.
Soul of the Community
Loflin rose to national prominence as the lead author of the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community Project, which broke new ground by identifying “community attachment” as a leading indicator of regional economic success for metropolitan areas. Loflin defines attachment as a new approach to studying local communities that goes “beyond measuring just satisfaction to also take a look at community pride, community optimism, and other emotional feelings about place.”
“The more people love their town, the more economically vital it will be,” she said. “It’s not just pretty things and kumbaya moments. Community attachment is the special sauce that strengthens communities.”  
Her research found that people who are attached to a place are more likely to start a business and buy a house; they are more productive at their work and less inclined to look for a job elsewhere. “There are so many little ways in which love of a place can translate to economic impacts, and these all add up.”
Read the full story.