In addition to publishing thoughts from our program directors in the 26 Knight communities, we’re also reaching out to other local civic leaders. These remarks come from an email interview with Brad Dean, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
What jumped out at you from the results of the study?
I was pleased to see that such a high percentage of people are engaged to our community. This measurement tool, offered by the Knight Foundation, is the only such tool we have, and we had expected it might show a smaller level of engagement with all of the negative news nowadays. We are pleasantly surprised that so many of our residents remain engaged and upbeat about the region.
What do you consider to be the key takeaways from the findings?
The economy is on everyone’s mind, which is certainly no surprise. While our local economy is beginning to rebound, our residents still see a need for the creation of new jobs, economic diversification and investments in our local infrastructure. We’re pleased because each of these issues is solvable, but it’s clear that these are the top concerns, and very consistent with the prior year’s findings.
Do the findings reinforce the value of any local initiatives?
Absolutely! The work that has been done on road improvements and airport expansion, which began years ago and continues today, is clearly a top priority for our residents and businesses. There’s an increasing level of awareness that we must work to diversify our economy, and that is a top priority for our local economic development agency. And while it’s not been easy or quick, there is a growing level of collaboration between the public sector and the private sector on strategies with impact to grow our local economy, particularly tourism.
What questions does the study raise for you?
While we’re pleased that so many residents are enjoying their quality of life in our region, there are still those that are looking for more involvement and more satisfaction. That’s helpful to know, but it’s important we seek to improve our community in a way that benefits everyone, not just a few.