Blandin Foundation Rural Pulse sees spike in concerns, resilient optimism
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Providing quality employment opportunities has emerged as the overwhelming priority within rural Minnesota communities, according to a statewide survey commissioned by the Blandin Foundation. Rural PulseTM 2010 finds that among residents of non-metropolitan communities, demand for living-wage jobs is more than twice as important as the second most critical issue. Sixty-five percent of rural Minnesotans say there are insufficient local job opportunities in their communities.
The survey also found a sharp jump in the number of rural residents who perceive their communities are struggling. Asked to assess quality of life in their community, 37 percent say it has declined. That number is four times what it was 10 years ago when only nine percent of the respondents felt that the quality of life in their communities was deteriorating.
At the same time, however, the survey finds surprising confidence, with 87 percent of those surveyed saying they can help their community become a better place to live. Nearly seven in 10 are confident quality of life will improve over the next few years.
“The health of rural Minnesota is essential to the health of our entire state,” said Jim Hoolihan, president and CEO of the Blandin Foundation. “Rural Minnesotans are struggling to maintain jobs, schools, and checkbooks – and yet have confidence about the future of their communities. Their challenges and assets must be a part of the discussion—and a part of the solution—in virtually all matters relevant to the future of Minnesota.”
The survey is unique in its singular focus on rural communities in Minnesota and cities smaller than 35,000.
Rural Pulse 2010 also surveyed community leaders across the state on the same topics and found concerns are even more significant among leadership; only one in five agree that there are adequate, quality employment opportunities. One in four community leaders has considered moving to a larger city or metropolitan area themselves, largely in pursuit of job opportunities.
“Even though facing challenges, rural Minnesotans have a strong sense of possibility as innovation and new technologies offer opportunities unimaginable to generations past. Yet overwhelming concern for sustainable jobs suggests the need to establish a more meaningful link between education, innovation and employment opportunities. To embrace such positive change, leadership in our rural communities must be inclusive, responsive and collaborative,” said Hoolihan.
Among other survey findings:
- While most rural residents believe their community provides a welcoming environment with equal access to essential services, 43% do not feel local leadership reflects representation from people of differing backgrounds.
- Forty-one percent of rural residents – particularly those younger and with lower incomes – say they have never been invited to participate in a leadership role.
- Identifying alternative energy resources is a high priority for rural Minnesotans – 81% feel it is important to pursue emerging energy sources such as solar, wind and biofuels.
- Most rural Minnesotans believe their community provides equal, quality access to essential services. As an example, 89 percent feel their community is doing an adequate job of controlling crime, serving the elderly and being good environmental stewards.
Rural PulseTM is a periodic research effort of the Blandin Foundation designed to present a deeper understanding of important issues such as health care, education, attracting and retaining household supporting jobs, and inclusion. This year’s study was based on information gathered from more than 1,064 surveys conducted in September with those living outside the seven-county metro area in communities of less than 35,000. The survey, conducted by independent researchers Russell Herder, has a statistical reliability at the 95 percent confidence level of plus or minus 3.2 percent.
In addition, 549 surveys were also completed with alumni of the Blandin Community Leadership Program (BCLP) and Blandin Reservation Community Leadership Program (BRCLP) for a statistical reliability of +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. For nearly 25 years, BCLP and BRCLP havebeen helping rural leaders develop and enhance the skills, knowledge and relationships they need to build and sustain healthy communities – ones that thrive in times of challenge and opportunity.
Blandin Foundation, Minnesota’s largest rural-based private foundation is located in Grand Rapids, Minn. Its mission is to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, through grants, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives.