"The Community Survey" conducted by the University of Tennessee reached 2000 households in the region. It showed a high quality of life was enjoyed by residents but focus on jobs and education should be a top priority.
We hear you. For several months, PlanET has been asking residents across the five-county region to weigh in on the issues that matter most to them, those affecting their daily lives and those that will have an impact on the future for their children and grandchildren. Through Community Forums, Working Group sessions with area experts, the Meeting In A Box program that brings planning activities directly to community groups, and with our online town-hall meeting, MindMixer, we’ve gathered a lot of input from area residents. Perhaps the widest reach across the region, though, was achieved by “The Community Survey.”
A telephone poll conducted by the University of Tennessee this spring, The Community Survey gathered input from 2,000 residents across all five counties, each asked for their opinions on problems facing the region and their priorities for future growth. The statistically-valid survey revealed several key findings.
Residents expressed positive sentiments about life in their communities, with more than 75 percent reporting quality of life as good or excellent. However, there was region-wide consensus that a lack of good-paying jobs is a major problem, one that should be tackled, according to respondents, by providing educational programs for new career opportunities, with special effort made to attract manufacturing or science and technology jobs to the region.
Survey respondents noted other regional challenges, including low achieving schools, pollution in the region’s rivers and lakes, traffic congestion, and highways in need of repair.
The UT survey gave equal time to identification of the region’s assets, and participants stated their top-five: mountains and natural beauty, people and sense of community, quiet of small towns, climate and seasons, and family.
The big-picture questions about quality of life in the region were complemented with questions that sought to identify smaller-scale issues, those that affect individuals and families at a closer-to-home level, giving planners a better idea of what residents want to see in their own communities. Five characteristics rated most important by survey participants were high-quality public schools, being within a 30-minute drive to work, having sidewalks and places to take walks, easy access to major highways/interstates, and being within an easy walk of other places and things in the community.
Cohesiveness across the region was clearly demonstrated in the results of the community amenities question. When responses were compiled separately for each county, survey respondents in four of the five counties selected the same five factors in the same order of importance. While our region enjoys considerable diversity, at the end of the day, we still value many of the same things when it comes to how we want our communities built.
So it’s clear where PlanET needs to focus its efforts. You’ve spoken, and we’ve listened. Phase one of the PlanET process set out to gather community input on current challenges and strengths. Next in the process, we will ask residents about their vision for the region, 20 to 30 years out. Look for many opportunities to tell us your ideas about a desired future as we continue to move the planning effort forward in the coming weeks.