Buffalo Commons Survey

About the Study

The primary objective of this study was to identify potentially successful strategies for residential recruitment and retention in sparsely populated rural areas. This was accomplished through the compilation and analysis of detailed information from households that have chosen to relocate to one of Nebraska's most rural regions: the eleven county western Panhandle. The following results are based on data collected from the household survey as well as the focus groups of new residents.

 

kids playing

Key Findings: Who They Are

  • New residents bring many assets to the Panhandle region: high levels of education, children, professional occupation skills, entrepreneurial backgrounds, and volunteer and community leadership experience.
  • New residents come from many different locations, arriving from 38 different states.
  • Most new residents come from other parts of Nebraska or from the adjacent states
  • The majority of new residents moved to the Panhandle from a metropolitan county.
  • While one quarter of new residents moved to the Panhandle alone, most brought either a spouse/partner or children with them.
  • A slight majority (54%) of new residents had lived in Nebraska before, almost one-third (32%) had lived in their current county before and just over one-third (38%) had lived in their current community before. Still, many new residents (46%) moved to their new locations without any prior experience with the Nebraska Panhandle.

Key Findings: Why Did They Move

  • New residents rated the high cost of living and urban congestion as the top reasons for leaving their previous community.
  • Top rated reasons newcomers move to their current communities involve community quality of life amenities: to find a simpler pace of life, to find a less congested place to live, and to be closer to relatives. Other reasons include the decreased cost of living, the quality of the natural environment and to find a higher paying job.
  • Families cite the better environment in which to raise children and better quality schools as reasons for moving to the Panhandle.
  • Job-related considerations are important factors in the decision to move, but community quality of life amenities can be the factors that ultimately lead persons to choose to move to the Nebraska Panhandle.

Key Findings: How Do We Keep Them Here

  • Most new residents considered other locations before choosing their current location.
  • Most new residents view their new communities as friendly, trusting, and supportive.
  • Many new residents are involved in their new community, but are not as engaged as they were in their previous community.
  • Many new residents are either not planning to stay in their current community or aren't sure of their plans.
  • Younger persons are more likely than older persons to be planning to leave or to be unsure of their plans.
  • The feeling of belonging in the community has the strongest relationship with the expectation of staying in the community.
Demographic Profile of New Residents

Comparison of household income:

  • One-third (33%) had household incomes under $30,000
  • Just under one-half (48%) have household incomes of $50,000 or more
  • 47% of current Panhandle residents have household incomes under $30,000 and
  • 28% have household incomes of $50,000 or more

Comparison of Education

  • 97% had at least a high school education
  • 81% had some college education
  • 40% reported having attained at least a bachelor's degree
  • Compared to an average of only 18% for the region

Comparison of Age

  • Average age is 46 years
  • 41% are between 20 & 40
  • Compared to 23 percent of current Panhandle residents

Employment

  • 80% have an employed person in their household
  • 27% of employed respondents report working in a professional or related occupation
  • 15% of employed respondents are working in management, business & financial operations
  • 13% are employed in transportation & materials moving
community marketing

Skills and Interests of New Residents

  • 44% report having professional & related occupation skills
  • 41% management, business and financial operations skills
  • 28% sales and related skills
  • 24% office and administrative support skills
  • 23% agriculture skills
Movement To Panhandle Area

47% of new residents moved to the Panhandle in 2006 and 13% moved in 2007 or 2005

Familiarity with Area

  • 54% of respondent & 50% of their spouses/partners had previously lived in Nebraska
  • 32% of respondents & 26% of the spouses/partners had lived in current county before
  • 38% of respondents & 32% of the spouses/partners had lived in their current community before

Where Did They Come From?

  • 20% came from other parts of Nebraska
  • 42% from the neighboring states (Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota & Kansas)
  • 37% came from places that might not be expected (Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada & Texas)
  • 61% moved to the Panhandle from a metropolitan county

Who Did They Bring?

  • 1/4 moved here alone & 21% live alone
  • 2/3 moved here with a spouse/partner & 34% live with another adult
  • 1/3 brought children with them & 43% have children in their household
  • 4% moved with other related adults & 1% moved with other unrelated adults
New Resident Skills & Experiences

Involvement in previous community

  • 72% belonged to a group or organization in their previous community
  • 70% donated money to local organizations, charities or causes
  • 58% volunteered in their previous location
  • 34% held a leadership role in their previous community
  • 7% held a public office or served on a government board or committee

Entrepreneurial backgrounds in previous communities

  • 21% had owned a business, farm or ranch in their previous community
  • 14% had operated only a business
  • 3% had owned & operated both a business & a farm or ranch

Entrepreneurial skills in new community

  • 18% owned & operated a business, farm or ranch
  • 7% owned & operated only a business
  • 3% owned & operated a business as well as a farm or ranch
  • 8% owned & operated a farm or ranch
  • 16% had an interest in starting a new, expanded or additional business in their current community
  • 20% of ages 25-39 & 50-64 are the most interested in starting a business
Summary

New residents bring many assets to the Panhandle region. On average, they are younger and better educated than current Panhandle residents. They also are more likely than current residents to have children in their household. Thus, they are contributing to stabilize, and in some cases increase, the population of the area. In addition, the majority of the newcomers are in their prime earning years, so they are increasing the labor force in the region. Many new residents possess professional occupation skills and business, management and financial operations skills. Many were also involved in their previous community, thus bringing volunteer and leadership experience to their new location. Some new residents have entrepreneurial backgrounds and have an interest in starting a business in their current community. It is important that communities and the region as a whole tap into these assets that newcomers are bringing. This movement also creates an opportunity for communities to explore what attracted these movers to the region. Communities can learn from the new residents and use that information to recruit other potential movers to the area

For more information on Who New Residents to the Panhandle Are (pdf)

Why Did They Leave Their Previous Community?

Top Rated Reasons

  • 39% high cost of living
  • 37% urban congestion
  • 34% being too far from relatives
  • 31% lack of job opportunities
  • 29% fear of crime

Moving from a metropolitan county

  • High cost of livin
  • Unsafe places to live & fear of crime
  • High state and/or local taxes
  • Urban congestion & long commutes
  • Poor schools
  • Quality of the natural environment

Moving from non-metropolitan counties

  • Lack of job opportunities
  • Few cultural opportunities
  • Lack of outdoor recreational opportunities

Reasons differ by age

  • 49% ages 50-64 say urban congestion
  • 36% ages 40-49 say high state and/or local taxes & a long commute
  • 16% ages 50 & older say a long commute
  • 24% ages 40 to 49 say poor schools
  • 24% ages 30-39 say a lack of outdoor recreational opportunities
  • 16% ages 19-29 say being too close to relatives
  • 25% ages under 50 say poor place to raise children
Why Did They Move to Their Current Community?

Top Rated Reasons

  • 53% desire to find a simpler pace of life
  • 50% to find a less congested place to live
  • 50% to be closer to relatives
  • 48% to lower the cost of housing
  • 45% to lower the cost of living
  • 39% to obtain a higher paying job
  • 37% to live in a desirable natural environment

Reasons differ by age

  • Ages under the 50 rate better environment for raising kids, obtaining a job with their skills & opportunity to secure better job for spouse/partner

Reasons differ by family structure

  • 61% couples with children say finding a better environment for raising children
  • 39% single parent households say finding available & affordable child care
  • 39% single parents & couples with children say finding better quality schools
  • 37% couples with children say securing a better job for a spouse/partner

Reasons differ by previous location

  • 56% of NE natives say obtaining a higher paying job
  • 33% out-of-staters say obtaining a higher paying job
  • 46% of NE natives say finding more outdoor recreational opportunities
  • 18% out-of-staters say more outdoor recreational opportunities

From metropolitan counties rated higher

  • Better environment for raising children
  • Finding a less congested place to live
  • Finding a safer place to live
  • Lower cost of housing
  • Lower taxes
  • Finding a simpler pace of life
  • Seeking a community that shares my attitudes/values
  • Lower the cost of living
locations considered
What Job-Related Considerations Influenced Their Move?

community marketing

Top Rated Reasons

  • 36% newcomers & 24% spouses to accept employment by a new employer
  • 26% newcomers & 25% spouses to look for new work/job
  • 10% newcomers & 8% spouses transferred by employer
  • 8% newcomers & 5% spouses moved to start/take over a business
  • 1% both newcomers & their spouses/partners moved because of a military transfer

Reasons differ by age

  • 45% below age 40 moved to accept employment by a new employer
  • 18% ages 40-49 most likely to move to start/take over a business, compared to 2% ages 65 & older

Reasons differ by previous location

  • 51% NE natives to accept employment by a new employer, compared to 32% other states natives
Summary

The high cost of living and urban congestion were the top rated reasons for new Panhandle residents to leave their previous community. Other important reasons include being too far from relatives, lack of job opportunities and fear of crime, to find a simpler pace of life, to find a less congested place to live, to be closer to relatives, a decreased cost of living, the quality of the natural environment and finding a higher paying job.

The reasons for moving to the Panhandle differ by age, family structure, distance of move and type of county from which they moved. When marketing Panhandle communities to young families highlight: a better environment in which to raise children and better quality schools as reasons for moving to the Panhandle. Marketing efforts aimed at larger metropolitan areas should emphasize a less congested place to live, a safer place to live, a simpler pace of life, and a lower cost of living.

Job-related considerations are also important factors in the decision to move. So, job creation and business retention and attraction strategies remain important to new resident recruitment strategies. However, as noted above, community quality of life amenities can be the factors that ultimately lead persons to choose to move to the Nebraska Panhandle.

For more information on Why Panhandle New Residents Moved (pdf)

Community Satisfaction

Current vs. Nebraska vs. Other

  • 55% considered other location
  • 45% considered only their current location
  • 23% considered both Nebraska & other state locations
  • 14% considered other Nebraska locations
  • 16% considered locations in other states

Satisfied with community aspects

  • 83% environment for children
  • 78% fire protection
  • 75%clean environment
  • 69% senior living/services
  • 68% job security
  • 67% opportunities to join local organizations

Less satisfying community aspects

  • 52% state taxes
  • 52% property and other local taxes
  • 37% retail shopping
  • 31%entertainment
  • 26% available job opportunities

Satisfaction differences

  • Ages 30 & over are more likely to rate state taxes as poor
  • Ages under 40 are more likely to be satisfied with job security
  • 1/3 ages under 40 rate job security as excellent
  • About 1/2 ages 19-29 rate their police protection as either fair or poor

Good satisfaction differs by pervious location

  • 78% Nebraska native rate natural, scenic or recreational amenities as good or excellent
  • 57% adjacent staters rate natural, scenic or recreational amenities as good or excellent
  • 66% from metropolitan counties rate affordable housing as good or excellent
  • 47% from non-metropolitan counties rate affordable housing as good or excellent

Bad satisfaction differs by previous location

  • 59% Nebraska natives rate affordable housing as fair or poor
  • 35% adjacent staters rate affordable housing as fair or poor
  • 42% persons from states adjacent rate their police protection as either fair or poor
  • 27% persons from nonadjacent states rate it as fair or poor
Community Assimilation

Time span of assimilation

  • 79% think a person is a newcomer for less than 3 years
  • 50% say a person is a newcomer for 1- 3 years
  • 29% believe a person is a newcomer for less than 1 year
  • 13% say it takes 4 - 9 years before a person is no longer a newcomer
  • 8% think it takes 10 years or more

Differing demographics influence opinions

  • 52% ages 65 & older think a person is a newcomer for less than 1 year
  • 23% ages 30-64 think a person is a newcomer for less than 1 year
  • Ages 50-64 are most likely to think it takes 10 years or more before a person is no longer a newcomer
  • Persons from non-adjacent states are most likely to think a person is a newcomer in their community for less than 1 year
  • Persons from Nebraska are most likely to think a person is a newcomer for 10 years or more
community marketing
Encouragement of Newcomers

The majority of newcomers would encourage all types of people to move to or remain in their community.

Newcomers encouraging others to move

  • 74% would somewhat or strongly encourage close personal friends to move to or remain
  • 71% would encourage children to move to or remain
  • 70% would encourage grandchildren to live there

Proportions encouraging other groups to move to/remain

  • 74% Nebraskans from other areas of the state
  • 72% elderly persons
  • 71% young adults/young families
  • 66% other relatives and in-laws
  • 64% out of state residents
  • 60% single parent households
  • 56% members of ethnic minorities
  • 79% from eastern NE or adjacent states encourage close, personal friends
  • 65% from nonadjacent states encourage close, personal friends

Community Involvement of Newcomers

  • 53% belong to a group or organization
  • 57% donated money to a local organization, charity or cause
  • 43% have volunteered their time
  • 22% have held a leadership role in their community
  • Couples with children are the group most likely to participate
Will New Residents Stay

Likelihood of living in community five years later

  • 60% said they probably or definitely would be living there
  • 18% said they probably or definitely would not be living there
  • 22% did not know

Likelihood age differences

  • 65% ages 65 & older say they probably or definitely will be
  • 46% ages 19-29 have plans to remain
  • 66% of persons who have lived in Nebraska before planed on staying
  • 53% of persons who have not lived in Nebraska before planned on staying
  • 65% Sixty-five percent of persons who rate their community as friendly plan to stay

Expectation of staying equals high ratings in (few examples):

  • Feeling of belonging in the community (86%)
  • Suitable housing & neighborhoods
  • Clean environment & environment for children
  • Available job opportunities & job security
  • Police & fire protection
  • Health care services & government
  • School system & educational opportunities
  • Standard of living & household income
  • Natural amenities & community appearance
Summary

Active recruiting by a community can influence the decision to move to the Panhandle. By better understanding what drew new residents here, communities can develop targeted marketing campaigns designed to draw more new residents to the area. Most new residents rate their communities high on its social attributes, view their new communities as friendly, trusting and supportive. Many also rate their communities as good or excellent in several areas, which communities can work to improve. Many new residents are involved in their community, but are not as engaged as they were in their previous community. It takes time for new residents to become engaged in the community. Communities need to embrace new residents and give them opportunities to become more involved in their community.

The numbers of persons planning to leave or who are unsure are higher for younger persons. Thus, communities must implement or improve retention strategies to keep these new residents in their communities. Even though persons who have lived in Nebraska before are more likely than persons who have never lived in Nebraska to be planning on living in their community five years from now, a majority of persons new to Nebraska are planning to stay. This is an encouraging finding. The feeling of belonging in the community has the strongest relationship with the expectation of staying in the community. Communities need to work to integrate new residents into community life, organizations and leadership opportunities in order to increase the odds that they will remain in the Panhandle.

For more information on How to Keep New Residents (pdf)