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Stark Views: Survey Explores Local Residents' Views of the Future

Posted April 25, 2011

The Corporate University at Kent State University at Stark again teams up with The Canton Repository on a public opinion survey to measure Stark Countians' perceptions of local economic development.

The people of Stark County are used to hearing opinions about their community. From political pundits to Forbes magazine analysts, Stark County – together with the greater Northeast Ohio region – is often under the microscope. Yet, despite all the attention, local residents rarely have an opportunity to voice their views about the area's direction and future.

The Repository and The Corporate University at Kent State Stark are changing that. Using a combination of web-based marketing and research tools, they partnered in 2009 and again last fall on the Stark County Public Opinion and Attitude Survey, which is designed to give Stark Countians a collective voice concerning economic development.

"We wanted to use our research capabilities to help the community and came up with the idea of this survey," says Marshall Hill, research associate at The Corporate University. "Working with The Repository – a major news media outlet with Stark County's most-visited website – was a natural fit. We are both community partners with a stake in this, as opposed to an outside firm looking in. Our motives stem from a desire to improve Stark County."

The organizations have enjoyed a history of teamwork, as well as mutual sponsorship of significant business and community events, including Kent State Stark's Earth Day Celebration and the Stark County Business to Business EXPO. Maureen Ater, director of marketing for The Repository, notes that the two institutions – both large Stark County employers – work side by side on many fronts and on behalf of many area organizations.

She says, "Neither of us takes our principal roles in the community lightly. It's important for us to consider all the ways we can work together to benefit not only ourselves, but also the people we serve."

The Corporate University developed last year's Stark County Public Opinion and Attitude Survey based on responses to the 2009 version, in which a majority of respondents indicated a need for a Stark County economic development plan. Among other things, the 2010 survey asked:

  • Who is responsible for creating and driving this plan?
  • Is economic development in Stark County on the right track?
  • Does Stark County have the ability and resources to grow economically?

Hill says the results indicate a disconnect between what the respondents want to see happen with economic development in Stark County, what is actually happening and their own belief in their ability to effect economic change.

"They would like to see business and political leaders of our community step forward, assume a primary role and develop a plan for Stark County's economic future," he adds. "I think we now need to ask, 'who is the catalyst and how do we spread the word?'"

Leaders from The Repository and The Corporate University are meeting to discuss what the next logical step in this process should be. Ater says the survey – which she and Hill both hope will be offered annually – has the potential to lay groundwork for positive change.

"Information like this energizes people to make changes," says Ater. "I really believe The Corporate University staff members have poured themselves into this project, which has not been an easy task. They are providing valuable data that we can truly do something with."

Stark Numbers:

Highlights of the 2010 Stark County Public Opinion and Attitude Survey include:

  • 84 percent believe Stark County has the ability to grow its economic development.
  • 67 percent think the county is currently on the wrong track.
  • 37 percent believe they have the ability to help influence economic development.
  • 92 percent indicate that leaders (business and political) need to step forward and guide economic development.
  • 87 percent believe more collaboration is needed between the public and private sectors.
  • 67 percent believe Stark County has the resources needed to create a strong economy.