What Makes Up Quality of Place?

Posted: Updated:

Economic development is a hot topic these days. With the economy continuing to chug along in robust fashion and unemployment approaching historic lows, communities are refining their objectives and priorities to eek every drop of benefit they can from these financially strong times.

Nowhere is this focus greater than with "quality of place." As cities and states think about how they can distinguish themselves from their peers, a common starting point is developing a strategy around the type of demographic they want to attract. Beginning this process by first determining what an area wants to be is a critical first step.

Elected officials sometimes make the mistake of proclaiming what they think their quality of place is or should be without considering what is actually desirable and achievable for their location and culture. This misstep can be especially prevalent in smaller communities. In an attempt to woo targeted industries, cities and towns sometimes market their communities as something they’re not. Worse yet, they try to be something they’re not, spending resources trying to compete with markets that are not their natural peers.

What makes up quality of place? Much of it is in the eye of the beholder, but, as site selection consultants, the following are some of the common traits we assess when evaluating a community’s vitality:

  • Density: Are businesses, amenities, and housing options concentrated in a central area? Conversely, is there too much density?
  • Diversity: Is there a diverse population that will enhance workforce options for employers and contribute to a richer culture? 
  • Accessibility and transportation: Is it easy to move to and from key destinations within the area, whether it be places of employment, restaurants, parks, or shopping?
  • Cultural attraction: Does the community have cultural amenities that appeal to a wider demographic, and more specifically to the community’s target demographic?
  • Cost of living: How expensive is it to own a home, rent, purchase necessities, or own a car? 

As one considers this list, it’s easy to see how quality of place can mean very different things depending on the area. Issues such as density and accessibility will hold varying levels of importance for specific types of companies, projects, and communities. Likewise, a desirable culture may hold a different meaning for rural areas compared to urban locations.

Communities often evaluate their quality of place by focusing on their strengths. But attention should focus just as much on real or perceived weaknesses. Every community, even the most desirable, has a list of areas that need work. Some of these are inherent to a location and can never be successfully resolved. For example, no locale in the Hoosier state will be the nation’s leader in construction of ski chalets or oceanfront homes. But that doesn’t prevent every city and region from being constructively critical about its soft spots.

Areas that master quality of place develop a strategy of knowing who they are, embracing their strengths, and setting doable, desirable goals to build on assets.

Indianapolis, for example, developed a quality-of-place strategy decades ago that eventually came to fruition and continues to be refined. Over the course of many mayoral administrations, the city created a downtown symbiotic based on sports and conventions as attractions. Now, with that strategy firmly in place and flourishing, Indy has leveraged its burgeoning downtown to find success in the tech industry. Many recent projects in this space, including the Salesforce and Infosys deals, are objective proof of this winning approach. The quality of place Indianapolis has built around downtown has been an indispensable part of this strategy.

Now, in the wake of the city’s strong showing in Amazon’s HQ2 search, Indianapolis has a unique opportunity. It can tout its top 20 finish while making refinements to its quality-of-place initiatives so that it is more competitive in attracting the talent necessary to compete for future projects.  

Strong quality of place can’t be achieved as an afterthought. Nor can it be achieved when our heads are in the sand. It requires planning, self-awareness, discipline, vision, resources, and commitment. But if done right, it can reap huge benefits.

  • Perspectives

    • A Pro Photographer Can Be Your Best Friend

      It's no surprise that an estimated 8.8 trillion photos were taken worldwide during 2018, given that most of us carry high-quality cameras in our phones. But shooting all those photos doesn't make us photographers. Digital technology has become a powerful equalizer in so many ways. Everyday people have access to tools that are far more sophisticated than what professionals had at their disposal a couple decades ago. High-school-age musicians can craft 24-track studio recordings in the...


Company Name:
Confirm Email:
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections


  • Most Popular Stories

    • Local Real Estate Team Appoints CEO

      Evelo Team, with Keller Williams Realty, has promoted Hannah Perkey to chief executive officer. She started with the team in 2015 and most recently served as director of operations. As CEO, Perkey will continue in the role that she has expanded into which includes oversight of all daily activities, leading the sales team, and providing strategic direction to the team.

    • Chamber Unveils 'Best Places to Work'

      The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has released its list of the Best Places to Work in Indiana. This year's list features 125 companies throughout the state, including more than 40 that were not on the list last year. The chamber will unveil company rankings April 30 at an awards dinner at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. Winners are sorted into four categories based on size. Out-of-state parent companies must have at least 15 full-time employees in Indiana to...

    • Amendment Makes Major Change to Hate Crimes Bill

      A bill that would allow for longer sentences for hate crimes is moving forward with a significant change. Our partners at WIBC report the Senate passed an amendment Tuesday that removed the list of individual groups that would be covered under the law. Originally, Senate Bill 12 said a sentence could be lengthened if someone convicted of a crime was found to have deliberately targeted someone based on factors including race, religion, and sexual orientation, among others.

    • Lev Bringing Headquarters to Indy

      Marketing technology consulting firm Lev has announced plans to relocate its headquarters to Indianapolis. The company, which is currently based in Arizona, says it plans to hire 70 employees this year, part of a previously-announced effort to create up to 175 jobs by 2021. Lev has had a presence in Indianapolis for nearly three years and Chief Executive Officer Michael Burton says, since that time, the company has outgrown every space it has occupied in Indy. In an interview with...

    • Mixed-Use Project Proposed For Speedway Main Street

      A Fishers-based commercial real estate development firm is proposing an $8 million mixed-use development in Speedway. Rebar Development says the project would redevelop a section of Main Street that would include residential, office and retail space.