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Perception: How a City's Image Affects Your Choice

Your take on a desirable location might not be in the fold after all.

A survey conducted by the Human Capital Institute on the best and worst cities to relocate in, reveals one factor that many wouldn’t have thought of being a part in the public’s decision: location image. City perception has been considered by the 2,500 respondents along with environment, climate, parking space and affordability: In a Businessweek report, Scott Simmons, vice-president and founding partner of Crist|Kolder Associates states, “Perception is a big deal when it comes to places,” said Simmons, adding that it’s important to have candidates visit the city before making a decision. Everybody has preconceived notions…. Everybody thinks Chicago is Siberia when it comes to late fall and winter.”

To many, site location is primarily driven by job opportunities and the cost of living in a particular area. But perception can find its way to make or break the choice in the end. People might be attracted to Wall Street (that is, if business grads are willing to wait for the rebound) but may be discouraged by the high cost of living in Manhattan.

Other cities have successfully built images that retain in people’s minds no matter what transpires in their economies: Silicon Valey: high-tech waterhole, Boston: university niche, and Houston: energy base. On the other hand, some may also have biased preconceptions against other cities like in New Orleans: devastating hurricanes, Detroit: crime syndicates and Cheyenne: no urban prospects. But perceptions are subjective so for some, New Orleans will remain as a jazz haven, Detroit as an automobile hotspot, and Cheyenne as a rodeo destination. In 2003, Michigan officials convened to come up with a “Cool City” concept for its cities. A total of 40 cities have responded to the call for rebranding their areas in order to draw more people to visit or permanently settle in the Great Lakes State.

During a recession, joblessness is more widespread so this would influence laid off employees to search for jobs that would match their skills. In determining where to work, some can be attracted to other cities, forcing them to leave their homes and start their new careers. More often than not, a lot of people consider their feelings towards a place first before flipping the classified ads section of the daily. As such, it is necessary that cities build an image that can preserve their culture, ensure the residents’ safety, provide more potential for growth and create an overall friendly appeal.

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