Kent’s Lifestyle Factors:
Kent’s history runs deep and is built from years of real living - with the scars and life experiences to prove it. It’s those scars that give Kent its unique character and charm.
While the sprawling suburbs that define most areas are full of big box retailers and featureless strip malls, Kent has place appeal. Kent stands apart as a community without pretensions, one that doesn’t try to cover up its faults; one that lives true to its roots. We’re a WYSIWYG city and make no apologies for having uncompromising pride in our corner of Northeast Ohio and our place in the world.
Perhaps most importantly, ingrained in the Kent fabric is an unspoken promise to keep it real – no posing allowed – which means the Kent community has learned to tolerate things that may be disagreeable at times because that’s what Kent is all about. In a world full of choreography, Kent’s a breed apart and *&#! proud of it. Lyrically, we’re Cobain’s “Come as You Are” or Beck’s “Where It’s At” set to an underbed of orchestration, courtesy of our award-winning National Public Radio station, WKSU.
What’s different about Kent is how we’re able to bundle big city-cultural amenities into a small town package that leaves plenty of room for living. Great works of art may end up hanging on display in museums but they’re made in the streets of places like Kent, where life is hands-on.
When you get right down to it, Kent’s leaders think that by cultivating Kent’s eclectic and unique lifestyle, Kent will be the city of choice in Northeast Ohio for anyone who is looking to be in a place that is known for its energetic and diverse residents and for those who want to connect to their community in a personally meaningful and enriching way. In fact, Kent believes enough in cultivating our unique lifestyle to incorporate our genuinely different way of life into the vision statement for the community- it’s a touchstone for everything we do.
Kent is right-sized for living. It’s a place where people still come first – regardless of the price.
FACT: Kent passed up millions in revenues in the 1990s when the community said no thanks to a new mall in Kent because malls are out of step with the community – they’re too corporate, too homogenized, and too soul-less for Kent’s home-brewed tastes. More to point, the building would have encroached upon our irreplaceable prehistoric bog. To that end, Kent said thanks but passed on the opportunity because it wasn’t a good fit for the community.
Kent retail stores are locally owned and operated, and Kent’s music venues, pubs and eateries are all small, intimate, and conversational. Kent is intentionally people-scaled to ensure that it stays a place where memories and personal stories can still be told and heard. Kent is out to prove that you don’t have to be big, to live big.
Kent is fortunate to have Kent State University as an engine, bringing in a new class of periphery consumers and idea generators every year. Student cycling serves a critical role in keeping the culture fresh.
Universities – by their diverse nature, their flow of new people, and their role as a breeding ground for new ideas – provide the raw materials for the periphery to flourish. The Kent community mines those raw materials to create a sustainable economic advantage.
“Across business cycles, college towns are steady and predictable,” says John Stapleford, senior economist at Moody’s Economy.com, who notes that for every job created by a university or college, between one-half and one full job are created in the surrounding economy. “That money comes from the spending patterns of the university, the spending of employees, spending of the students as well as the flow of visitors.”
Whiles some communities root within a narrow range of lifestyles, Kent goes wide. We’re full of straight lines, squiggles and curves – but our best parts are found at intersecting points, where things get interesting. Specifically, these intersecting points define unconventionality, rebelliousness and nonconformity - all traits of emergent entrepreneurs and innovators, the kind of people that cities eagerly compete to attract.
It makes sense that folks who feel less bound by convention as a lifestyle are also more likely to push the envelope in business, which gives them a higher probability of stumbling upon a business focus that becomes the next J&P Lube, with its environmentally progressive engine oil, or the next Arbor Realty, who recently won the Washington Business Journal’s Visionary Award for Green-leaning business pursuits.
Kent actively supports innovators like these by creating an environment where risk-takers can test ideas and business models within a skilled support net – a net cast by the University, the City and those entrepreneurs who went before. We leverage these assets to position Kent as “the place” to go (and stay) to test an idea, work it through design and then roll it out for commercialization.
To point, with a growing list of companies like Alpha Micron, Liquid Learning and RocketCalc, Kent is building a genuine entrepreneur community. And rather than just benefiting from innovations and spin-offs that have happened serendipitously, Kent is using its periphery culture as a catalyst to trigger more of them, raising Kent’s innovation quotient.
Competition for the best and brightest talent is an economic fact, and as companies scramble to attract and retain that talent, the community that offers the best work/life balance will have the edge. And therein, perhaps, our advantage is a natural one due to our university and our town culture. Our artful, earthy, educated, edgy and ecology-oriented mix is Kent’s X-Factor. And with our people-first focus, we offer a competitive advantage for any company that recognizes people as its greatest corporate asset.
As a center of civic life, the arts, and commerce, Kent is rich in the raw material of the new economy where human and creative capital is a driver of economic performance in the 21st century economy.
Kent’s future-forward strategies and plans are built on the premise that innovation and business growth enjoy a competitive advantage in places where the specialties of research, technology, commerce and culture are given opportunities to converge. The goal is to create a shared physical space where people will gather, ideas will cross-pollinate, and innovation is a way of life. That space is Kent.
Kent is the cultural context that university cities are known for and leveraging that unique cultural context is Kent’s strongest asset. Kent has a lot of great assets like the Cuyahoga River, a great school system, terrific parks, abundant trails, low crime, low cost of living, etc., but many communities offer those too.
It’s when you throw in 27,000 students and the amazing multi-cultural mix that comes with them that you’ve got a game changer. Get that mix right, and give people of all ethnicities places to gather, mingle, learn, live and play together, and you’ve just leap-frogged yourself to the front of the line of best places to live, play and do business.
- Kent is in the top 7% in diversity in the state of Ohio
- In 2010, Forbes rated Kent the 8th most affordable community in the USA
- Kent won a National Award for Exceptional community planning for Kent’s bicentennial plan and sustainable goals in 2005
- Compared to the rest of the country, Kent’s cost of living is 12.50% lower than the U.S. average
- With its plethora of local fresh-food sources, Cleveland is ranked the second best “food city” in the nation. Read more about it here and here.
(these are real)
To City Manager Dave Ruller:
Just had to share with you about a Hot!!! Friday night in downtown Kent.
My wife and I had heard about Steven Stills coming to Kent but of course we did not act soon enough to get tickets to the early show. So, when we heard about the second added show we figured we had better check it out and experience a piece of history.
Ray’s was our first stop, we couldn’t waste valuable energy making dinner if we were going to stay up past 10:30. The place was packed. A rowdy crowd came to see Kent thump Akron and our home team put on a show.
After that, what’s a Friday night out without a little ice cream. We stopped by to see the always pleasant Michelle Hartman at the Artic Squirrel. Super.
Finally it was show time. It was great, It was Kent. Every type of person you had every seen around town was there. The crowd was a little rowdy. The music was great and Steven Stills still has quite a bit left in the tank for being 67!!! And we were home by 12:30.
Why am I telling you all this? These are the things that our town is made of. Memories were made last night, not just by me but by everyone who was downtown. And it is these kind of things that will help us grow and come together and prosper. This is a great place to run a business, live and raise a family.”
City Manager Testimonial on Quality of Life enjoyed in Kent
“Each year, the Federal traffic researchers put out lists of how many hours of productivity commuters lose by choosing to work in big cities. I realize that traffic congestion is all a matter of perspective, and when you compare the summer traffic in Kent with the rest of the year, there is a difference. But even at its worst, Kent traffic is terrific.
In Kent, I can get to work in 3 1/2 minutes from my home. I can get to High School to watch my son play football in about 7 minutes. I can get to the grocery store in about 8 minutes. I can get to Kent State campus in 5 minutes. I can get to Starbucks in 4 minutes. Dinner at the Pufferbelly…4 minutes. The West River doctors…4 minutes. The Cuyahoga River trail…4 minutes. The MetroParks bike trail…5 minutes. The new Kent Free Library…4 minutes. The dentist…6 minutes. You get the idea.
In under 10 minutes I can get all over town. We talk a lot about quality of life, but for me, time not-spent driving to and fro is one of the better measures of quality of life. Think about that as you read about the lifestyle folks in other cities have to endure just to do the simple things that we take for granted here in Kent.
According to a new web service that compares data between cities, Kent is ranked in the top 2% of all cities in Ohio for walking and biking. I’d guess it’s a combination of functionality — meaning we’re a relatively small geographic area so it’s pretty easy to get from point A to point B burning calories rather than hydro-carbons — and it seems to also reflect a part of our bohemian/college/counter-culture attitude that compels Kentites to reject conventional transportation.”