Last Thursday I had the privilege to be a participant in the Central Florida Regional Leadership Forum – Connecting Our Shared Values with Our Shared Future. This event was hosted by the Central Florida Partnership, an organization that describes itself as a “collaborative of business and civic leaders committed to procuring a better tomorrow for Central Florida’s seven counties – Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia.”
We all know how influential Polk’s location is in the future development of the region. Both the Central Florida Partnership and the Tampa Bay Partnership include us in their region when they are discussing how progress and development occur. To wield this power, however, we have to be part of the conversation.
Last week’s forum reviewed the findings of a multi-phase research project to better understand the hearts and minds of residents of Central Florida, specifically as they relate to the values, priorities and future of the region. This information is to be used as our region considers who we are, what our responsibilities are and how we invest in a regional transportation system. Some of the answers were surprising – especially when your world routinely consists of strategy sessions about the greatest issues affecting our area (and the subjectivity and perception of the greatest issues). Here are a few of the highlights as they particularly relate to Polk County. Read the entire report here.
Sample size = 1, 026 people. 102 of those were from Polk County. Average telephone survey length was 28 minutes which is highly unusual. It demonstrates the level of interest in the topic. Participants were asked a variety of questions meant to reveal their true priorities.
1. People are hopeful.
On every version of the question, 60% or more people think we have an improving quality of life, believe their own community is headed in the right direction and site more positive attributes than negative when asked to describe the factors that affect quality of life. Eigthy-percent (80%) believe the local economy is improving or remaining stable.
2. Perceptions drive priorities.
When the researchers asked the question “What are the most important priorities for our region” they were surprised at the outcome. In meetings with community “leaders” prior to the research, not one leader highly prioritized what routinely came back as #1 on the citizen survey:
1. Reducing Crime and Making Neighborhoods Safer
2. More jobs that offer better pay, benefits and opportunities for advancement
2. Improve Education
The top personal priorities were:
1. Jobs and Employment Opportunities
2. Safe and Secure Communities
3. Traffic Congestions
Ultimately they determined that their was a unique psychological connection between how survey respondents answered this questions and their personal priorities. The “mind map” showed that people first acknowledge the factor that impacts their quality of life. They then look at the functional benefits of each factor and then the emotional benefits. That leads to the final value determination of the personal value associated with the emotional development. For example:
Less traffic (factor that impacts quality of life) –> Saves Time (functional benefit) –> Do Other things (emotional benefit) –> Peace of Mind/Enjoyment (Value)
4. So who is accountable?
The survey determined that people have specific perception of who is responsible for certain issues (independent meaning non-profit/churches/etc):
5. They want increased investment for improved transportation.
Perhaps what was most eye-opening was how respondents are willing to invest in improved transportation (which is of particular interest with the My Ride/My Roads ballot initiative Polk County will be voting on this fall). According to the survey, the strong majority (76%) support allocation of tax dollars to expanding and improving transportation. Of the Polk respondents, 50% want that increase in spending to come from existing funds and 34% want it to come from additional funding.