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“The Rushford Question” gets its answer

By Kirsten Zoellner

Mon, Apr 9th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Features

The Rushford Area Branding Council (RABC) revealed the results of the “Rushford Question” survey. Photo by Peggi Redalen

Prominent members of the Rushford’s council, the Rushford Area Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Authority, and the Rushford Area Branding Council were among the 30 gathered this past Monday to hear the results of “The Rushford Question.”

As an area survey conducted by the Rushford Area Branding Council (RABC), “The Rushford Question” was a questionnaire mailed to a random 536 of 1700 households in the Rushford, Rushford Village, and Peterson areas. Intended as a way to generate buzz among social circles, those receiving the packet were asked to keep the question secret. Begun in December of 2011, the survey was concluded to tabulate results this past February. The response to the survey was better than anticipated, with 25 percent of the total sample responding, when 3-10 percent is considered good on an average return.

The presentation was led by Carolyn Dunham, who had conducted the survey efforts. According to Dunham, the single, open-ended question methodology was intended to seek input from residents for an area brand, as well as to encourage residents to begin talking and thinking more positively about their community.

“It’s so essential to get some positive buzz going,” noted Dunham. “My approach is that of social capital; a capital that comes from the people. A community can’t depend solely of financial resources to flourish. It must have the people’s spirit and energy.”

So, just what was the question? “What do you like most about the Rushford area?” It seems simple enough, but as Dumham explained, respondents listed a wide array of answers that both gave the branding council vast insight into what the community feels is important, as well as reaffirming research done in the past that’s been studied intensely by the council.

The questionnaire, in its entirety, came as a three-part question, beginning with how long the respondent had lived in the area, in order to place them in a demographic timeline. According to Dunham, the random respondents averaged 30 years, but ranged from one year to their entire lifetime.

Following answers to the central question about the area, respondents were prompted with a third question, ‘Why?’ to get more in depth responses. As Dumham noted, this is where some went on and on about the positives within the community.

The collective data was then sorted into eleven categories, beginning with the first five things mentioned by respondents, which were assumed the highest priority in their minds. The most prominent answer categories were (listed including percentage of total responses mentioning item):

•Natural beauty of the area (62.2)

•The people (60.1)

•Small town feel (40)

•The businesses (“full service community”) (31.4)

•City staff (included items such as the cleanliness of community) (24.4)

•“It’s home” (24.4)

•Schools (13.4)

•Closer to larger cities (9)

•Good place to raise a family (3)

•History/heritage (2)

•Churches (2)

“Did the project accomplish its objectives?” asked Dunham. “Yes. These things are present and alive in the community. The natural beauty and people of this area smacks of tourism. When we put aside the negatives we might have about change and look at today and into the future it is a challenge that is at once doable and exciting” she added. “Now, how do we use this information?”

The RABC intends to take the survey data under consideration as the communities’ voice for a formal brand, along with the work they’ve been doing for the last several years. As the council nears the point of revealing what it believes is the brand of the Rushford area community, they encourage residents to continue critical thinking. “This is your brand, too!” stressed RABC Chairman Doug Botcher. ““We’re not just going to say, ‘Here it is.’ We’re going to develop it.”

For those who have ideas or further input on the Rushford Area brand, contact any member of the Rushford Area Branding Council: Doug Botcher, Peggi Redalen, Terri Benson, Gail Boyum, Lori Hungerholt, Nikindra Hungerholt, Kevin Klungtvedt, or Terry Lesser.

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