Capturing the Millennial Population
Posted on by Sadie Colcord
Throughout January, I attended several 2018 economic forecast presentations, and a challenge for Connecticut that was mentioned at each one is the difficulty that many towns have in growing their populations of young professionals. I continually hear about the number of jobs that are open for millennials as the existing workforce ages, while it seems like many of these young adults are leaving the state without giving it a second thought. From what I can tell about the national economy, an abundance of jobs is not unique to Connecticut, so leaders at the state and local levels must work to develop a culture that is more attractive to this generation and which builds upon those employment opportunities.
As a millennial interested in municipal issues, I took some time to reflect on steps that a town might take that would make it a more attractive place for me (or someone my age) to live, work, and play:
- Work with businesses to create internship programs: Internships are an excellent way for young, skilled adults to become familiar with your town. By connecting businesses with colleges and trade schools in the area, you will help to create a pool of young talent that can fill employment vacancies at those businesses. As a result, there is a greater chance that these individuals will choose to live in your town post-graduation.
- Offer variety in the housing stock: Affordable rental housing is a major draw for millennials. Some are not ready or able to commit to purchasing a home, whether due to the fact that they are still paying off student loans on a relatively low salary or they are simply not ready to be tied to one location. However, other millennials are prepared for this commitment. The key is to offer many different housing options: a variety of property sizes, locations, prices, rental vs. purchase, etc. You must work to encourage and promote acceptance of the development of different forms of housing if your town is to be attractive to a wide range of young people.
- Create cultural attractions: Millennials are very focused on experiences, so appealing to them through the creation of cultural happenings at the local level can be very successful for attracting them to live and work. Reach out to the artists in your town to initiate an art tour or wine and paint night. Engage the restaurants in the town center to do an appetizer or wine crawl. Invite local musicians to do a battle of the bands at the town park. You must begin discussions with local businesses about the interest that these events can bring, both to them and to the town as a whole. Oftentimes, businesses will even work to organize them once they realize these benefits.
- Update the town’s website: With younger generations being very tech-savvy, it is essential that you communicate your town’s message through its website. Photos should tell a story as to why a young person should come to live, work, and play. Information on the topics discussed above (internship/employment opportunities, housing options, and cultural amenities) should be front and center. This material must create a strong and visually-attractive argument as to why your town is perfect for young professionals. Some towns have even created a separate website dedicated to marketing themselves to newcomers.
These suggestions provide actions that you can take right now to appeal to millennials. While it may take longer to reap the benefits of some (i.e. encouraging the development of rental housing), making financial and time investments in these changes will set up your town and its businesses to succeed far into the future. Young adults contribute to economic and social vitality, so you should be taking advantage of what they can bring to your community.
CERC would love to help your town create a strategic and personalized plan for engaging in economic development that helps to attract young adults, so please contact us for more information.