The social capital survey results are expected to assist economic development efforts and one of the area's economic drivers - tourism.
Sheila Haverkamp, Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp. executive director, said economic development occurs, in part, where people feel connected and at home. The lakes area has benefited in manufacturing jobs when seasonal homeowners felt such strong connections to the area they opened companies here, such as Lakeland Mold.
"Seasonal lake homeowners will be more likely to pursue economic development projects in our area if they feel a connection to the community and people," Haverkamp said.
Students met Thursday afternoon in Martha Kuehn's psychology class at Central Lakes College. A partner in the social capital survey, CLC President Larry Lundblad said the information gained in the survey will be beneficial as the college attracts students. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
BLADC intends to make the information available to business prospects interested in the lakes area. Haverkamp said the information will be helpful to companies in making their decision to invest in our area versus some other location, may be used as an additional marketing tool and to develop a new marketing niche.
"This, in my mind, can create a whole new opportunity that we have never sat back and focused part of our work plan on and it's what I call destination economic development marketing similar to an Aspen or a Vail or a Lake Tahoe where we promote the Brainerd lakes area to the many people who can operate their business or work from their home."
Benefits in promoting home building here include creating work for the construction industry, bringing in new consumers for the area and potentially increasing school enrollment.
"The future is not just going to be where the rail line goes through, it's going to be where people feel a sense of community and they feel networked and they feel connected. So how are we ranking in that area? How do we score? The results indicated we scored quite well. ... That doesn't mean we can't improve."
The Brainerd Lakes Chamber intends to have the survey information available online. Fresh from a meeting with the chamber's tourism advisory committee, Lisa Paxton, chamber chief executive officer, said the results show 75 percent of the people trust weekenders or tourists but it's a reminder there is work to do. Trust for tourists ranked at the bottom among other groups of people. The chamber is approaching that as an education challenge to make sure residents know the economic benefits that the tourism industry brings here.
Social capital survey
The social capital telephone survey reached 560 Brainerd lakes area residents in October while the written survey reached 52 students at Central Lakes College.
Partners in the survey were Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp., Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Central Lakes College and the Brainerd Dispatch. The Initiative Foundation, Little Falls, assisted with funding for the survey.
UpFront Consulting of St. Joseph conducted the survey.
"We need to be make sure we are reinforcing the benefits of tourism and that's what we plan to focus on," Paxton said. "How does tourism benefit our area? Do people realize if we didn't have the tourism impact of the weekenders or tourists they would not enjoy the shopping and the dining and the recreation they all participate in as year-round residents?"
At the same time, the chamber is embarking on a new campaign this spring to make sure weekenders feel welcome and appreciated. The upcoming governor's fishing opener will be a tie-in. The campaign may use window decals and buttons to help convey the message welcoming visitors.
The campaign will kick off at an April 23 tourism summit at Ruttger's on Bay Lake.
"I think overall that the survey was very positive for the area," Paxton said. "As a marketing tool for prospective businesses or residents this is a survey we are going to want to share. ... It really illustrates this is a very happy place and a very connected community."
Paxton said people feel an involvement in the community and are trusting of others, positive attributes in marketing to newcomers.
"They should know they can readily connect to the community," Paxton said. "And the survey reinforces that."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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