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 then 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 from which 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. Now, almost 13 years later, Denton is recognized for the second year in a row among America’s top most livable cities.
Only two Texas cities were included in the ranks of the official “Top 100 Best Places to Live” both years. In 2014, Denton was #56 followed by Plano at #86. This year, Denton is #84 followed by Richardson at #93.
The list is the result of a scientific study conducted by Livability.com of some 2,000 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.
The study employed four principles to guide their research. The first was access, which includes schools, hospitals, airports, infrastructure, crime rate, climate and amenities. Next, affordability looked at costs and incomes. Choice was the third principle, looking at options available in a city that make it livable for all citizens. Finally, utilization considered places where residents make the most of their city’s opportunities.
The study ranked cities in eight categories: economics, education, health care, social and civic capital, transportation, and then the three categories where Denton scored highest: demographics, housing and amenities.
Denton also scored higher than average at 63 in the education category where the average score among the 2,000 plus cities in the study was 39. 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 immediately. An educated population fuels creativity, cultural opportunities and a stable economy.
Seeing Denton on that list validates the direction of the Denton 2030 plan. It means that we continue making progress, the plan is serving its purpose and 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 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.
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 essence of Denton and her original, independent people. The Denton 2030, 2040 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. Number 84 out of 2,000 other cities. That means that at least 1,916 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.
Mayor Brock, thank you again for the book. Denton’s creative class is definitely rising, and the tide is lifting all boats exactly as you and Richard Florida predicted.
View the full Livability report at livability.com, Best Places to Live.