I first arrived at the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the beginning of 2003. My initial focus as the new kid-on-the-block was meeting the movers and shakers. I began at the top and scheduled a one-on-one meeting with Mayor Euline Brock.
Prepared to offer my best handshake, I entered her office, my words already rolling out: “Mayor Brock, I am the new CVB Director…”
Before I could say another word, she responded from an awkward, bent over position where it seemed she was perusing a bookcase. “Yes. And I have a gift for you,” she half-sighed as she stood, recovering her posture and smile. She handed me a copy of urban development guru Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class. “I want to tell you about our vision for Denton,” she said. “Then read this book, and you will understand.”
She did. Then I did. And I got it. I grabbed hold of the vision and have not let go. Now, almost 11 years later, Denton has made the list.
Only two Texas cities were included in the ranks of the official “Top 100 Best Places to Live.” Denton was #55 followed by Plano at #86.
The list is the result of a scientific study conducted by Livability.com of some 1,700 plus small and mid-size American cities’ quality of life amenities. Livability.com partnered the project with none other than Richard Florida’s own Martin Prosperity Institute, “the world’s leading think tank on the role of location, place, and city-regions in global economic prosperity.” Boil the company’s descriptor down to a few words and you have what we call “sense of place” in destination marketing.
Seeing Denton on that list validates the direction of the Denton 2020 plan, which is at this very moment being updated to become the Denton 2030 plan. It means that we have made great progress, that the plan is serving its purpose, and that we the people are staying the course.
In the CVB, making the list means we hit the mark with our “Denton. Original. Independent.” brand. We developed an image, a brand, a signature that clearly delineates and conveys our sense of place where creativity and individuality and originality are bedrock. From the economic development perspective, what a bedrock on which to build! Denton offers a quality of life and ever-expanding culture attractive to the creative workforce so sought after by progressive businesses. Our universities are engaged, their combined nearly 50,000 students representing hundreds of nations injecting our culture with fresh, diverse, and broader views for who we are as a city and where we fit in the grand scheme of the world around us.
There were eight categories in which the study ranked cities: economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, healthcare, and then the two categories where Denton scored highest, social and civic capital and education.
Denton’s highest marks were in social and civic capital. I love this quote from the Livability.com website: “A community is more than just a collection of people living in the same geographic space, of course. A community is a group of people working together to make that space a better place.” This quote encompasses the meaning of social and civic capital. The Denton 2020 or 2030 or any other plan will never happen just because they are planned. They happen when the people come together, work together, invest together and make it happen. Denton scored 77 here, far above the average 49 of the study pool.
Our second highest score was in the education category where the average score among the 1,700 plus cities in the study was 40. Denton’s score was 74. Because education happens at every level of life, having two universities, a community college, Emeritus College, and excellent public and private school options put Denton out front at first glance. A well-educated population fuels greater creativity, cultural opportunities, and a stable economy not as given to winds of change as are other more volatile industries.
Denton. Number 55 out of 1,700 other cities. That means that at least 1,645 other cities in the study ranked behind us. Incredible! Fantastic!
So, have we arrived? No way. We’re just getting started! We must keep pulling forward together with our vision intact.
And, Mayor Brock? Thank you, again, for the book. Denton’s creative class is definitely rising and the tide is lifting all our boats exactly as you and Richard Florida predicted.