Throughout Johnson County, local communities are focused on improving the quality of life for residents.

Trail systems help connect neighborhoods and attractions. Downtown rejuvenation projects help create a center where local businesses, parks and public spaces give people a reason to come together. Public art projects beautify the areas where people live.

All these aspects work together creating places that people love.

“Your love of place doesn’t come because your town has no potholes,” said Katherine Loflin, founder of Loflin Consulting Solutions and an expert on places. “Your love of place comes because you feel comfortable liking three things about a place — social offerings, aesthetics and culture of the place around feeling welcoming.”

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Loflin will bring her expertise on the art and science of quality-of-life to Franklin on Thursday. During a day-long conference organized by Aspire Johnson County, she’ll focus on building a positive community and making it a place people feel deeply connected to.

“You can grow this thing called ‘resident attachment,’ where people really feel like they belong where they live,” she said. “There’s a sense of belonging in that place, an attachment to it where they feel rooted.”

This will be Loflin’s second time speaking in Franklin. She was invited last year by Aspire Johnson County, a program of the Johnson County Development Corp. focused on economic development in the county.

A skilled community practitioner, she has advanced degrees in social work and gave her dissertation on civic engagement and social capital. But it was her work as lead consultant with the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community study that led her to the field of placemaking.

“There was this trend of people prioritizing quality of life, this whole idea of work-life balance,” she said. “A lot of this started happening at the end of last decade, when the bottom fell out of the economy. So many people who had given themselves over to their jobs had a moment and realized they were sacrificing a lot for a job that might not be there.”

Through the study, she and a team of researchers looked for answers to why people love where they live, and why that matters. The study collected responses from more than 43,000 people in 26 cities.

The results indicated that the more people who love where they live, the more economically successful it will be. At the same time, they want their neighborhood or city to be attractive, engaging, welcoming and friendly.

“A tagline from the Soul project was, ‘A loved place does better.’ Love places do better economically because the people within them are also thriving,” Loflin said.

Loflin will again share with the Johnson County community her research on what makes a place well-loved. Her appearance is open to the public. After a discussion and question-and-answer session, attendees will spend time putting those ideas into action with a plan for Johnson County.

“I want to make sure they have examples and understand that how you start to create a place doesn’t have to be expensive or a big, drawn-out nightmare,” Loflin said. “I want to start putting some rubber to the road on this visit and start a conversation for them to have in the next step on this journey.”

If you go

“Love Places and Why They Matter: How Placemaking Can Positively Impact Our Community”

What: A community conversation and presentation by Katherine Loflin, an expert on placemaking known as “the City Doctor.”

Who: Organized by Aspire Johnson County

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday

Where: Henderson Conference Room of the Johnson Center for Fine Arts, Franklin College, 101 Branigin Blvd.

Cost: $15; lunch is included

How to register:

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.