Resources for businesses, attractiveness to retired people and access to technical training were some of the areas highlighted in the results of a community survey by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, which were released Tuesday.
The survey is part of an ongoing Community and Economic Development Strategy conducted by the chamber along with Market Street Services, a community and economic development firm based in Atlanta.
"The ultimate goal of the Community and Economic Development Strategy is to make our community a more prosperous, successful and vibrant place," chamber President Randy Allen said in a news release.
The survey is part of the first phase of the six-month strategy, which focuses on community input.
A total of 1,628 responses were received by the chamber, with 1,200 people completing the entire survey. It was open from Sept. 17 through Oct. 17.
Attractiveness of the area
Jefferson City may be more attractive to families with children and retired individuals than it is to young professionals, according to the results.
About 60 percent said Jefferson City would be an attractive place to retire, and 50 percent said they plan to retire or remain retired in the area.
For families, about 44 percent said they would raise or continue to raise children here, and 78 percent said it would be an attractive place to live for families with children.
That attraction might end when those children are grown: About 37 percent said it is unlikely or highly unlikely their children will want to live here after growing up.
About 52 percent said they disagree with the idea Jefferson City can attract young, new residents from outside the area, and 40 percent said the area is not attractive for young professionals.
"Jefferson City offers little to no opportunity for young, unattached professionals to meet, build community and friendships outside the business community," one respondent said.
"Younger adults are fleeing Jefferson City because of lack of job opportunities," another wrote.
The written responses given in the survey results were a select few and are anonymous.
One section of the survey focused on the areas' schools. A group of 672 people responded to a question about which school districts they were more familiar with.
About 50 percent answered the Jefferson City School District, 26 percent said Catholic schools and 5 percent said Blair Oaks. The other 12 percent responded with other private or public schools.
The most common theme in the responses to questions about the area schools seemed to be a lack of workforce and career training.
While 51 percent said they agree or strongly agree two- and four-year degree programs that support the workforce needs of the area are available, some disagreed.
Only 38 percent of 608 respondents said they feel career education receives adequate attention, and in a section where survey respondents could write responses about what they feel could be done to improve the school districts, several mentioned seeing a lack.
"Implement more education and career counseling regarding all post-secondary options, not just college. Schools lean heavily to college prep, and this needs to be more equally distributed to all post-secondary options based on individual student wants/needs," one respondent wrote.
Another said while the new high school was a good step forward, Jefferson City still lacks technical skills training and workforce skills.
Overall, about 70 percent agreed children in their districts receive high-quality education. However, 50 percent said they agree the quality of local public schools inhibits community growth.
When it comes to post-graduation plans of respondents who are currently in school, the results are divided evenly. Fifty percent of the 18 respondents said they plan to stay here after graduation, and 50 percent said they did not.
Those who said no mentioned moving to larger cities that could offer more job opportunities or things to do.
When it comes to the business and entrepreneurial climate of the city, a lack of support for small business — new or established — was common theme in the survey results.
Just 35 percent of 142 respondents said they felt networking opportunities with established business leaders were strong or very strong in the Jefferson City area. For mentorship opportunities, just 11 percent said strong or very strong.
Capital support for start-ups or growth is even weaker, according to the survey. Sixty-three percent said capital support is average or weak in the area. Almost 40 percent said support for small business development was weak or very weak.
A lack of space for developing businesses was also a common theme. Access to entrepreneurship spaces like incubators or co-working facilities was marked as weak or very weak by 44 percent of respondents.
Answers to what could be done to enhance the entrepreneurial climate in Jefferson City focused on providing a multi-use business space and more encouragement for small business growth.
"Offer meeting space for small businesses — I work out of my home, and it is very difficult to find a place to have a private meeting," wrote on respondent.
The business climate in Jefferson City has a couple of advantages, according to the survey results.
Forty percent said the cost of labor is a major advantage to businesses, and about 34 percent said the cost of utilities is a major advantage.
Natural disaster preparedness and availability of quality office space were also said to be major advantages by about 40 percent each.
A lack of labor, specifically skilled labor, may be affecting local businesses.
Forty percent said their businesses are not able to find the workers they need to grow. About 44 percent agreed quality certification and vocational training programs are readily available in the area.
Specific things suggested to satisfy labor demands were more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education; an expansion of vocational training; training in basic computer programs; and more technical or two-year programs, as well as basic skills like social and communication skills and self-management.
When asked what they would like to see change in Jefferson City if they came back after being away for 10 years, responses included more parks and trails, improved streets and sidewalks, a developed riverfront area, a more unique culture and a thriving downtown area.
"I would want to see the historic areas of our city preserved and an emphasis placed on them. They help make our city unique and we should find a way to capitalize on them," wrote one respondent.
Improvement to Lincoln University's campus and its relationship with the community were also common responses.
A theme of a sense of community was also apparent. Some mentioned adding community spaces, while several suggested integrating cultures and diversifying the city.
The ages of the respondents were divided fairly evenly, with the 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55-64 age ranges making up about 20 percent each. Another 4.5 percent of participants were younger than 24, and 14 percent was older than 65. The largest portion, by a margin of 1 percent, was 35-44 at 22 percent.
The results were far less divided by race. Ninety percent of respondents were white. The next largest results were "prefer not to answer" at just more than 4 percent followed by black at just more than 2 percent.
About 40 percent of respondents had bachelor's degrees, about 20 percent had master's degrees and about 16 percent had some amount of college but no degree.
Seventy-three percent of respondents said they have lived in the Jefferson City area for at least 10 years, while about 8 percent said they do not live here. The survey was open to anyone, not just those who live in the Jefferson City area.
Eighty percent of respondents said they were employed, and 16 percent said they are retired. Of those employed, around 50 percent said they are at an employee level at their job, 24 percent are managers or directors, 12 percent own a small business and 11 percent are executives.
About 17 percent said they have lived here between one and 10 years, and 1.6 percent said they have been here less than a year.
When asked why they moved to Jefferson City, 84 percent said it was for employment. The next highest answer was family or friends, at about 35 percent.
On the web:
The full results of the survey can be found on the JCMO Strategy website under "Project Details & Documents" — www.jcmostrategy.com/project-details-and-documentation