Community Builders on Creating Place Value

In a post-recession economy that is increasingly competitive on a global scale, communities are grappling with the issue of how to attract and retain businesses and talent. When entrepreneurs are getting established, what influences their decisions about where to locate? What keeps those businesses, and what attracts the skilled employees that help businesses grow?

These questions are at the heart of Place Value, a recent study from Community Builders, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping local leaders create more livable communities. The study draws on survey results from nearly 1,000 business owners and community members in four Rocky Mountain states: Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

“Much has been studied and written about the shifting nature of economic development, and the importance that community and place play in cultivating a rich economic environment,” says Clark Anderson, director of Community Builders. “However, those studies tend to focus on the larger metro regions and bigger cities in the U.S. Place Value explores how they’re playing out in small to mid-size communities within the West.”

The results strongly support economic development approaches that focus on creating great communities with amenities, attractive neighborhoods, and a range of services. While traditional economic development approaches, including tax policies and business incentives remain useful, Place Value found that community characteristics are increasingly more important in attracting and retaining businesses and workers.

Key findings include:

People are willing to sacrifice salary for the ideal community.Eighty-three percent of respondents favored “living in an ideal community with a lesser salary” over “living in a community that’s less than ideal with a high salary.” Safety, open space and trails, access to recreation, neighborhood character, and short commute times are all highly rated factors for people deciding where to live.

Jobs follow people. The majority of business owners (70 percent) established their residence in a community first, and then decided to start a business at a later date. Less than one-third of business owners moved to a community with the purpose of opening a business.

Community quality is a top priority for businesses and residents.In selecting a location to live, the most highly considered factor for business owners and community members was the overall quality of the community. Seventy percent of business owners responding to our survey indicated community character was “extremely important.”

Being in a place that can attract talented employees is important to growing businesses. Sixty-eight percent of business owners with unfilled positions said that the ability to attract or retain talented employees was an important factor in choosing their business location.  

People on the move are looking for great places. When making relocation decisions, people consider both the quality of the community and job opportunities. Most respondents (44 percent) felt that a job and the community are equally important factors in relocation decisions. Only 17 percent of respondents indicated job opportunities as the most important consideration.

Housing costs are a concern for businesses and employees. Sixty eight percent of community respondents felt there are not enough housing options for a range of incomes in their community. This issue matters to businesses too: 60 percent of business owners felt that housing costs impacted their ability to attract employees; the number jumps to 76 percent for those that are hiring.

Place Value Chart 1

Average Importance Rating 1= not at all important 5=extremely important.
For full results visit

Place Value Chart

Average Importance Rating 1= not at all important 5=extremely important.
For full results visit

How Can Communities Respond?

This research suggests that communities will benefit from expanding their economic development toolbox to include approaches focused on creating great places where people want to live and work. In turn, communities that grow good jobs by supporting existing businesses, providing tools to entrepreneurs, and developing a skilled workforce will succeed at creating diverse local economies.

And, paying attention to the cost of living before it becomes an insurmountable problem will be important to keeping those jobs and talented people in the community.  Through these steps, communities will create the value of place that is key to attracting and retaining residents and businesses in today’s economy.

To read the full report visit:

For more information:
Twitter: @CommunityBldrs
Facebook: /CommunityBldrs
Media Inquiries: John Lavey, Community Builders

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