What Does this Mean for Economic Development?

Aaron Gantz, MPA | Marketing Manager

Has anyone else heard the word “Millennials” recently? This word lumps a large group of people born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s into a group people are paying A LOT of attention to as of late. Why should we care about this group of late teens to early 30 somethings?

According to the PEW Research Center, Millennials will be the nation’s largest living generation. This group has already surpassed Generation X. While painting groups of people with broad brush strokes is not a personal favorite, there are some serious implications for the way we approach workforce and community & economic development.

What is it that Millennials Want?

During a recent PA Economic Development Association (PEDA) conference talent recruitment challenges were discussed. Now that Millennials make up a growing portion of the current and future workforce, companies have to work in what Carine Clark CEO of MaritzCX calls the “war for talent.” This segment of the workforce is looking for more than a job title and a paycheck.

According to Kim Lentz and Sonia Huntzinger of York Millennials:

  • Prioritize lifestyle
  • Want work/home/social lives fully integrated
  • Care about sustainability and environment
  • Desire for optional modes of transportation – public, biking or walking (AKA car optional)

Boomers v Millennials

Why Should Economic Developers Care?

Traditionally economic developers are competing for companies based on location, costs, incentives and utility capacity. It is now safe to say we are also competing for talent. Companies are still going to keep a close eye on their bottom line, but they also need to have the ability to attract and retain talent. The importance of location will not only revolve around access to markets and costs, but also their ability to pull in talent. Does the talent want to live in the selected community?

This lifestyle “thing” will continue to bubble to the top. From a community and economic development perspective this information helps to prioritize local development activities. If putting off downtown redevelopment or creating amenities that enhance quality of life have been put on the backburner – time to start moving things forward. The focus on lifestyle, access to amenities and multiple modes of transportation brings us to the importance of placemaking.

Placemaking is a multifaceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. What qualities make a great place?

  • Safety
  • Attractiveness
  • Recreational and social amenities
  • Access to various modes of transportation

In Pennsylvania we have a localized government system. This allows municipalities to roll up their sleeves and work to determine their own destiny. We have seen this happening across the state – some are big like Pittsburgh who has turned it around and consistently earns “most livable” city; smaller examples like Lancaster, Johnstown, Phoenixville and West Reading to name a few, have embraced the concept of placemaking and have been grinding to make it happen.

So, What Does This Mean for the Future?

As an economic developer I am so excited about this conversation. This shifting in approach is forcing the field to evolve. We have the opportunity to move outside traditional job creation and “making deals” to working with our partners focused on cultivating main streets and partnering on talent attraction and retention strategies.

We are all in this together!

PURELY FOR FUN: Take this quiz by PEW Research Center to determine “How Millennial Are You?

I would love to talk to you further about MILLENNIALS and economic development – feel free to drop me a line at Aaron@GreaterReading.com or send me a tweet @acbader19.

Full disclosure: I am a millennial, born in 1986 and want these “lifestyle” amenities too! I am so fortunate to call the West Reading/Wyomissing area my home in Berks County, PA! I can walk or bike to work, I can walk out of my home to an awesome park system, grab a drink at a craft beer house, and pick any number of great food places to eat at.