What Makes a Community Great



What are the key ingredients to success? We noodle around this topic often in our work. Economic developers strive to make their communities better, but what does better look like and how do you get there? What makes one place special? What makes a community great?

We recently read The Global Investor’s Perspective on True City Competitiveness by Conway, Inc.  Even though the article deals with city competitiveness, it can easily be applied to communities of any size. Our list of what makes a community great closely aligns with Conway’s.  Here are their Top 10 Indicators of a Great City in the Essential Ingredients article

  1. Lack of/minimal political divisiveness at the local level.
  2. The ability of the public to be able to name the local “movers and shakers” with ease.
  3. Strong public/private partnerships.
  4. Citizens know the “civic story” – the city’s strengths, weaknesses, and plans moving forward.
  5. The condition and potential for the city’s downtown will indicate the city’s future.
  6. Nearby research institution.
  7. Strong community college at the city center.
  8. Creative and experimental public schools.
  9. Inclusive and open to all groups.
  10. A collective “big dream” – a sense of where things are going.
  11.  BONUS – A great craft brew industry.

At Creative EDC, we believe that the difference between successful and unsuccessful communities is leadership, numbers one and two in the list above. Communities succeed when leaders share a common vision for the future and work to realize the vision (#10).

People and businesses are drawn to communities that invest in themselves. Communities that are successful have positive government involvement and a track record of public and public-private partnership investments (#3).  Creativity in the public schools and deeply engaged community college system are indicators of the investment the community is making in itself (#7 and #8). Another indicator is the condition of downtown. A vibrant downtown is the heart and soul of a community (#5). Why would a business invest in your community if you are not investing in it yourself?

There may not be an exact recipe for greatness, but there are shared characteristics of great communities. Take these similarities, add your own special ingredients, and create your own recipe for greatness. Email us a comment to share what you believe makes a community great. We are always interested in improving the recipe.