How Willmar Area Quality of Life Compares
The following is an excerpt from the Quality of Life report, published by Next Generation Consulting as part of the Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 initiatives.
Can you measure Quality of Life?
For the last two decades, young talented workers in North America have been clustering in cities and regions with identifiable, measurable quality of life features. To help the Willmar Lakes Area become a better place to live and work for current residents—and to attract and keep future citizens—Next Generation Consulting evaluated Willmar versus five peer cities (Hutchinson, Owatonna, St. Cloud, and Watertown) using its proprietary quality of life indexes. The seven quality of life indexes include:
- Vitality - How healthy is Willmar? This index tallies things like air and water quality, food deserts, residents’ health (e.g. obesity, access to recreational facilities, primary care physicians, etc.), and a city’s focus on LEED and Energy Star projects.
- Earning - High school guidance counselors tell children that they’ll have between nine and eleven careers in their lifetime. The Earning index measures items like median income, unemployment, jobs in the knowledge-based sector, women and minority owned businesses, self-employed, and more.
- Learning - Is Willmar committed to high quality education, for all of its citizens? This index tallies educational expenditures, student-teacher ratio, bachelor degrees, high school attainment, Wi-Fi hotspots, and more.
- Social Capital - Great talent comes in every race, creed, and color. This index accounts for how open, safe, and accessible Willmar is to all people. It includes measures of diversity and crime, as well as farmers’ markets and dog parks.
- Cost of Lifestyle - Students and young professionals are just getting started in their careers, and for many, affordability is key. This index includes variables in the cost of living index.
- After Hours - There’s more to life than work. This index counts the places to go and things to do after work and on weekends.
- Around Town - How easy is it to get to where you want to go in Willmar? This index measures Willmar’s “walkability,” airport activity, commute times, carpooling and mass transit use, and more.
Taken together, the indexes can be plotted as a “Handprint” (see Figure 1 below), so that community leaders can quickly identify areas in which cities are leading or lacking. The larger a community’s handprint, the more attractive it is to the next generation workforce. Figure 1. Willmar Versus Average of its Peer Cities: Alexandria, Hutchinson; Owatonna, St. Cloud, and Watertown. [caption id="attachment_170" align="alignnone" width="463"]
This spider diagram shows Willmar's scores versus the normalized average of its peer cities[/caption]
What does the handprint mean?
The handprint shows the Willmar Area's relative strengths and challenges in the seven quality of life indexes compared to the overall average of its peers—Alexandria, Hutchinson, Owatonna, St. Cloud, and Watertown. Specifically, the handprint shows:
- Willmar scores better than the peer average in the Around Town index. This is due to citizens' above average use of carpools and mass transit for work, and its shorter commute times. Learn more about Willmar's scores in the Around Town index on page 12 of the Quality of Life report.
- Willmar scores at the average in Social Capital. Willmar has an above average number of farmer’s markets, more racial diversity, and a lower median age than its peer average. Learn more about Willmar's scores versus its peers in the Social Capital index on page 9 of the Quality of Life report.
- Willmar scores at the average in Cost of Lifestyle. Although Willmar has a lower student cost of living than its peer average, Willmar also has the lowest median income. Learn more about Willmar's scores in the Cost of Lifestyle index on page 10 of the Quality of Life report.
- Willmar scores slightly below average in After Hours with lower than average arts, entertainment, & recreation opportunities, full service restaurants, local music shows and breweries and brew pubs. Learn more about Willmar's scores in the After Hours index compared to its peers on page 11 of the Quality of Life report.
- Willmar scores below average in Earning with lower than average results in income per job, Stage 2 job growth, patents per workers, percentage of knowledge workers, net migration rate from 2000-2009, and women and minority owned businesses. Learn more about Willmar's scores in the Earning index on page 7 of the Quality of Life report.
- Willmar scores below average in Learning due to lower than average high school and college attainment and number of WiFi hotspots. Learn more about the Learning index on 8 of the Quality of Life report.
Read the full report here.
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