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Livability survey reveals community attributes, opportunities

By Staff | Dec 13, 2019

Safety, good schools and “beautiful yards” are among the top qualities that make Rugby a desirable place to live, according to survey results released by the Rugby Job Development Authority last week.

The Rugby Community Liveability Survey was conducted September through November, according to a disclaimer in the results. The JDA used SurveyMonkey as a platform for the study and allowed respondents to skip questions.

Many questions were open ended to allow for diverse responses. JDA Director Liz Heisey, who released the survey, said answers were mixed to keep the respondents’ identities private.

More than 300 people took the survey, which was distributed to local businesses and government agencies and made available on the JDA’s website and social media.

Not all respondents said they live in Rugby.

Among 224 respondents living in Rugby, about 59 percent said they had lived in the community more than 10 years.

Newer residents who moved to Rugby reported they came to the community because they had grown up in Rugby or they wanted to be closer to family. Others said their careers or those of their spouses had brought them to town.

Approximately 200 respondents said they had moved to Rugby from other states.

“I thought it was interesting that most people who had moved here from out of state were from Minnesota, followed by Wisconsin and South Dakota. Just by looking at that, that’s to be where we might want to focus our recruiting efforts to attract people from outside of the state,” said JDA Executive Director Liz Heisey.

Heisey said most survey takers who were new residents from other North Dakota cities came from Devils Lake.

Although the survey asked whether building a community center would improve quality of life in the community to attract more jobs and workers, a community center did not come up as a priority for respondents.

“The biggest takeaway is what do people want? ” Heisey asked. “Shopping came up a lot.”

Heisey said of Home of Economy’s decision to open a store in the former Shopko building, “I think it will help a lot, but it’s definitely not a fix-all. That will be one of our 2020 priorities. We want to attract more retail shopping. “

Citing a speaker from a small town in Montana she heard at the Economic Development North Dakota conference two months ago, Heisey noted, “To be a shopping “center,” there needs to be 10 destination points to attract people to shopping in your town. If people are going to drive all the way here, they want options.”

“A lot of times when I go to Minot, I’ll go to three different places to find everything I need. That’s why people go to Minot or Bismarck. They have options,” Heisey added.

“Of course we want more diverse dining and retail,” Heisey said.

When asked if she thought Rugby could handle a large variety of shopping and dining options, Heisey answered, “Yes, I do. We definitely need more retail. That’s the main driver for people going out of town.”

“I know some people think about competition but if people think of Rugby as a shopping center, they’re going to come.”

“Then,” Heisey continued, “You look at fishing and outdoor recreation – how can we add more outdoor recreation to Rugby so people perhaps could stay in the community a little bit more?”

Heisey said Rugby’s love for the outdoors would provide a great opportunity for businesses offering hunting and fishing gear.

“Lots of people like to garden,” Heisey said of the survey respondents. “That would be a great store to have or something for stores to focus on selling more gardening tools. Gardening is really ‘in’ in Rugby.”

Heisey said the survey generated lots of ideas for adding to Rugby residents’ quality of life.

“We do need a fishing pond in Rugby,” Heisey observed. “We’ve got a lot of standing water in Rugby. I don’t know why they don’t put a fishing pond in there. The Department of Fish and Game will stock it for free and then we could get money from the North Dakota Heritage Fund but we’ve got to get organized.”

Heisey cited something she notices in the springtime when the water level rises in Wentz Canal.

“There’s a bridge on the walking path and I see kids over there trying to fish. Maybe we could use that (for a fish pond). Maybe we could use that big body of water near the golf course.”

“I even tell people, ‘If you think of an idea, call me.’ They got the shelter at the ball diamond because someone called and said, ‘I heard you on the radio and we could really use a shelter, because it gets so hot for the grandparents (watching little league ball games).’ I brought that to the park board and city and it took a year but they have that now.”

“So,” Heisey added, “if nobody said anything, they would think nobody was interested. But you’ve got to speak up.”

Positive attributes for Rugby listed in the survey results included “cleanliness” and “beautiful yards.”

“A lot of people live in our community because they feel safe,” Heisey noted.

However, Heisey said she also found room for improvement.

“I do think we need to welcome new people to the community,” Heisey said.

The survey found the degree to which new residents felt welcome was 39 percent.

“(Respondents) could rate (the degree they felt welcome) from 1 to 100 percent,” Heisey explained. “There were 11 responses saying they didn’t feel welcome at all, and there was only one person who said they felt 100 percent welcome.”

“Are people comfortable in our community? It looks like it. But are we doing enough to welcome to the community? That’s something we want to work on. We need to at least be 70 percent or 75 percent welcome. That 39 percent welcome is low,” she continued.

All in all, Heisey characterized the survey as “a good starting point. It’s a good way to open up the conversation and then people can decide. We need these platforms for sharing ideas.”

Complete survey results are available online at tinyurl.com/t3aq8td .

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