People in the Omaha metro area have big concerns about crime and property taxes. They worry that too many young, well-educated adults are moving away. They want schools and job opportunities to be better.
But a recent survey conducted for Heartland 2050, a project led by the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, or MAPA, also found that Omaha-area residents are more satisfied with their quality of life than people in most other cities.
“Overall, people like this place — and they like it a lot,” said Dee Allsop, who heads Hearts+Minds Strategies, the company that conducted the survey.
Allsop said 60 percent of those surveyed thought that Omaha was on the right track. In similar surveys nationally, he said, only 32 percent had such a favorable view.
The survey is being used by Heartland 2050, a long-term visioning project aimed at determining what the Omaha-Council Bluffs area will look like in the future. The goal is to move beyond political boundaries and collaborate on planning efforts, including transportation, development and other issues.
The project launched three years ago with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Participating entities span an eight-county area and two states: Cass, Douglas, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington in Nebraska and Pottawattamie, Mills and Harrison in Iowa.
The survey of 400 area residents was taken online from Jan. 8 to 16. Participants said reducing crime was the region's highest priority, followed by increasing the number and quality of jobs, retaining well-educated young adults, improving education and lowering property taxes.
Those surveyed were less concerned with topics such as increasing access to culture and arts, opportunities for residents to be involved, and civic involvement and engagement.
Greg Youell, MAPA's executive director, said recognizing what residents value and are concerned about will help the region as a whole move forward.
Last year the project held a series of workshops to hear challenges and opportunities about where people live, work and play.
This spring it will present scenarios based on the survey's findings, and residents will get a say in developing a vision for the region and policy changes needed to implement it.
“2014 is the fun part,” Youell said.
La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig, who is on the steering committee for the project, said it's becoming more important that communities grow with a purpose and work together, because different communities benefit from each other's strengths.
For example, La Vista, with businesses such as Cabela's, hotels and a conference center near Interstate 80, draws people from around the region and the country — which, in turn, brings economic benefits to other Omaha-area communities. Meanwhile, La Vista also needs other communities, such as Omaha, where many La Vista residents work.
“We want Omaha to be healthy because that's just better for all of us, and the same for Council Bluffs,” he said.