As readers of this blog are aware, last year the NDDC launched a new initiative to increase connections to both college students and college alums, called College-Community Collaborations. Staff met with dozens of professors at both colleges, looking for a match between college interests and community needs.
We identified over fifty potential projects. The projects are roughly divided into the four strategic areas: Enhancing College–Community Communication and Collaboration, Strengthening Our Sense of Place, Growing the Knowledge-Worker Economy, and Securing Resources, Building Sustainability. This year, we started in on the college-community collaboration projects. Eleven projects have already been completed.
We highlight two projects of perhaps particular interest to local leadership in this post: college students surveying alums who live or work (or live and work) in Northfield about what works works well and what could work better about living and working in Northfield. St. Olaf Professor Chris Chiappari and Carleton Professor Annette Nierobisz led the student project teams for these surveys.
The St. Olaf Class Alumni Survey Project found the following pro and cons: Pros: Northfield is a great place to raise a family. Housing near good public schools is relatively affordable. The colleges greatly enhance the community; there are very sophisticated cultural offerings for a small town. It’s close to the Cities (and a relatively easy commute) but isn’t the Cities. Downtown is pedestrian-friendly. And there’s good internet access. Cons: It’s a relatively small market, there are too few professional jobs in town, and there is a need for public transportation to the Cities for commuters.
The Carleton Class Alumni Survey Project found the following pros and cons: Pros: Northfield is a great place to raise a family. There is a strong sense of community, a high quality of life, and great natural amenities. It’s a small town close to the big city, rich in cultural amenities from the colleges, and has a vibrant downtown. The community is small enough so that you can make a difference. Cons: It’s less appealing to those under 30, there’s a lack of diversity, it needs more ethnic restaurants, specific additional retail offerings, and better public transportation to the Cities, and there are too few high-paying professional jobs for the community’s demographic mix.
There is much in common between the students’ surveys of the alums and the findings of the NDDC board’s business visits. Northfielders value our historic downtown (with its offerings of restaurants, retailers and services), our wild and scenic river, our good public schools, the contributions of the two colleges, the opportunities for arts, culture, and recreation, and the proximity to the airport. Let’s spread the word: Northfield is a great town to live, work, and play.
Photo courtesy of Griff Wigley.