Strengthening communities has
always been important work, and it is even more essential now that families
across America are facing so much uncertainty.
Forward Wayne County (FWC) partners with local leaders and organizations
to create more vibrant, thriving, and forward-thinking communities. We are inspired by how Wayne County residents have
been supporting each other through our current public health crisis, and are
committed to continuing our work of improving the quality of life for all
residents, and supporting our workforce with up-skilling, job placement, and
Our work is informed by YOU!
In February 2020, FWC
administered a countywide survey to better understand several factors that
affect Wayne County residents’ quality of life.
The survey explored:
Childhood Success – What are the current norms, challenges, and
expectations regarding childcare, and how do families find providers?
Development – How many residents live where they want, like where they
live, and what do they like about it?
of Place – What does a “vibrant” town center look like to Wayne County
residents, and do our communities provide active, entertaining, and enriching
opportunities for families?
Collectively, these categories
influence current and prospective residents’ perceptions of livability in Wayne
County, which impacts migration trends, community involvement, and the local
economy. The information collected in
this survey will help FWC develop projects and partnerships to help attract,
develop, and retain a highly competitive workforce in Wayne County.
What did we learn, and how will it help?
We received responses from 406
residents of Wayne County, with representation from 14 of 15 towns. Here’s what we learned in each key category:
Early Childhood Success
We heard from 58 parents who
have children who are five years old or younger. Of those, 47% use unpaid in-home childcare,
which may include a parent, relative, or older sibling. 21% use paid daycare, and another 21% use
public pre-k. However, 29% report that
they have not been able to find safe, affordable, quality childcare for their
child(ren) during work hours.
Wayne County parents primarily
find childcare through personal networks – 79% report using friends, family,
colleagues, and neighbors to find suitable providers. The top three factors in selecting a
childcare provider are reputation, price, and location.
Research shows that high-quality
early childhood education are critical to success in school, and a focus on
Early Childhood Success can help close the achievement gap. 91% of Wayne County parents plan to enroll
their child(ren) in early childhood learning programs before kindergarten, and
FWC is committed to improving the accessibility, affordability, and quality of
programs throughout the county. Our
Early Childhood Coalition convenes local experts and service providers to improve
access to high-quality daycare and preschool options.
Overall, 82% of Wayne County
residents live where they want to live in the county, but only 73% of residents
who are 25-44 years old agree. With 31%
of residents listing “more young families” as a top three priority for the
future of Wayne County, it is important for us to understand what people love
about Wayne County, what could be improved, and how FWC can help define and
achieve these visions through programs and advocacy.
The primary reasons people want
to move out of Wayne County are housing-related. Residents feel their homes are too expensive,
too big, too small, or too close to town.
Additionally, there is a reported lack of quality homes/apartments
available, and few options for downsizing or assisted living in preferred
One of FWC’s program pillars is
Neighborhood Development, which focuses on the community-led revitalization of
spaces that enhance the lives of residents.
Survey respondents report that they would like to see improved public
and private property maintenance, more parks, and increased safety precautions
throughout the county. With these
priorities identified, FWC can help residents define “development” for their
own neighborhood, and discover and mobilize existing resources to work towards
stabilizing, revitalizing, and enriching their community.
Quality of Place
Finally, our survey asked
residents about how they perceive the “quality of place” in Wayne County. Is it a great place to work? Raise kids?
Is it a beautiful area, with fun things to do? Nationwide, these are the types of things
that incentivize young families to stay in, and move to, a particular place.
The majority of residents
strongly agree that Wayne County is an affordable place to live, with many
options for an active lifestyle. There
is equal agreement that Wayne County is a beautiful area, a great place to raise
kids, and there are good schools in the area.
However, most residents agree that there are not many fun things to do,
and few “great” jobs in the county.
In 20 years, residents’ top
three priorities for Wayne County include: a stronger local economy, thriving
small businesses, and restored historical charm. When asked if their town has a “vibrant”
center, 15% of residents said, “yes,” while an additional 40% said “not yet,”
indicating optimism about the future state of the county. “Modernized town centers” is a top-three
priority for 19% of residents, who define a “vibrant” downtown as having retail
and restaurants, regular community events, and family–friendly entertainment.
FWC is addressing improved
quality of place through multiple programs targeting employability, arts, and
culture. Our Employability Coalition
connects residents with available employment and training opportunities, and
works to attract businesses to our communities and leverage existing
opportunities for economic growth. In
conjunction with our workforce development initiatives, FWC is also supporting
arts and culture programs to improve communities, address social and civic
needs, and foster broader organizational change.
Our Commitment to Our Shared Future
Guided by the experiences,
observations, and opinions of our fellow residents, the team at FWC is excited
to continue developing community-led initiatives that target Wayne County’s top
priorities and concerns. In these
uncertain times, it is more important than ever to ensure our programs are well
aligned with both current and evolving needs, and this survey provided us with
that invaluable knowledge.
Through this survey, we learned that Wayne County has many unique assets, and many opportunities for creative, community-defining growth. With a greater level of community involvement, increased cultural amenities, and a comprehensive workforce development infrastructure, Wayne County will be well positioned to attract and retain the next generation of local business and community leaders.
Read the full report here.