Community of Choice co-chair discusses initiative

November 16, 2012  

Although Mike Piggott has lived in Greater Lafayette since 1968, he says he's never seen the level of collaboration among area groups that he's seen during the ongoing Community of Choice initiative.

Piggott, Purdue's director of community engagement, is co-chair of the initiative. In 2011, Greater Lafayette Commerce hired Next Generation Consulting of Madison, Wis., to conduct a Community of Choice study to determine what residents liked and disliked about living in the area. The consultants then released a report detailing how to make Greater Lafayette a community where diverse, talented people want to live.

Piggott highlights some of the initiative's key findings and goals here.

What are some of the initiative's most notable goals?

The first and strongest goal says Greater Lafayette aspires to be a great place for all people. Within this we are looking at a number of areas related to diversity, but we also are very interested in finding ways to incorporate Purdue's international students, faculty and staff into the fabric of the community. We’ve already started a student group whose job is to lead that effort.

Another goal is to create a dynamic "town and gown" initiative that will enrich Purdue's relationship with West Lafayette and will help students connect with the communities on both sides of the Wabash River. We want the river to act not as a barrier, but as a zipper. Al Diaz -- Purdue's executive vice president for business and finance, treasurer -- has agreed to head up the group that will work on that goal. He lives downtown, so he understands what the community is all about. We are meeting this month to start fleshing out the details.

How does Greater Lafayette measure up to the communities benchmarked during the study?

We selected eight communities to measure ourselves against; we looked at a number of areas that deal with quality of life, and we didn’t pick easy ones. We picked some really cool places such as Ann Arbor, Mich.; Eugene, Ore.; and the Research Triangle in North Carolina. We fit right in the middle because we have a comparatively low cost of living and people tend to earn a little more here, so that helps the averages. There are many areas in which we need to improve, though.

According to the report, "Limited 'earning' opportunities in Greater Lafayette are the primary reason young people leave the area. Also, compared to other towns studied, Greater Lafayette lags in several quality of life areas that are important to young talent."

One of the things I think is unique to this process is that students and young professionals are given a place at the table. For example, there are 25 people on the initiative's Quality of Life Council and, by design, about a third are age 40 or younger. There are also a number of groups in different focus areas, so there is a lot of room for people to get involved.

How can Purdue community members get involved in this initiative?

There will be a committee, task force or team working on each of the goals. To express interest in participating, visit this website:

You also can take a pledge to be open to new ideas, to the future, to talent in all its shapes, sizes and colors, to people from around the world, to the contributions that businesses, nonprofits, the arts and wacky entrepreneurs make to our community, and open to the future. Take the pledge here:

A copy of the consultants' report detailing how to make Greater Lafayette a great place to live can be found here: A copy of the report can be found here: Lafayette Good To Great Final Plan_Updated 20SEP12.pdf.

Writer: Andrea Thomas, 49-68204,

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