Survey says Pinellas 18-39 year-olds like the county less than older folks

05/16/12 Janelle Irwin
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Pinellas County Commissioners are continuing efforts to create a strategic plan they hope will improve the quality of life for their constituents. Results of a survey of 800 diverse residents released last night at a meeting in Safety Harbor gave county staff some idea of what services are most important.

“We need to figure out if there’s something we can do to make this community more attractive to the 18-34 (sic) year olds.”

That was Pinellas County administrator Bob LaSala’s strongest realization after reviewing the survey findings. The 18-39-year-old sampling answered less than favorable on topics like whether or not the county was a good place to raise children or retire. The results also suggested that the younger age group may be suffering from frustration over a stagnant economy and job market.

“Are there some things that maybe we need to do that we’re not doing? Are there things that we’re doing that maybe we give up doing in order to do those other things. We need to know the pulse of the citizens. And this is a community of 900,000 people spread from Tarpon Springs to South St. Pete and of all different age and gender and race and income and lifestyle and world view and we need to put our finger on their wrist and take their pulse.”

Sarah Lindemuth is the senior research manager at HCP and Associates who planned the survey. She said overall respondents viewed Pinellas County favorably – even the disgruntled 18-39-year-olds. But commissioners and county staff can use the information about what residents like and don’t like to do even better.

“And you can see that the top three characteristics for alignment were the cultural events and social activities, the volunteer opportunities and the recreational opportunities. And then those that were perceived as being less aligned were the opportunities for quality education, employment opportunities and traffic flow on major roads.”

County administrator Bob LaSala said it’s important to know what people want, but making it happen may not be as easy.

“We need to focus on the fact that all those services were rated four points or higher on a scale of five. What does that mean in terms of funding and priority setting in a time where you have declining revenues. We need to look at reactions from different parts of the county and understand those people’s view of the world and their wants and needs.”

LaSala said he plans to continue working with researchers on the initiative. The ultimate goal is to compile enough information to establish a detailed, long-term plan for county improvements.

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