Attracting the Millennial Generation to West Michigan Business

MillenialsAs millions of baby boomers approach retirement, employers know they need to fill the gap with boomer kids, often called simply “Millennials.” The question now is how Michigan accomplishes that.

“The challenge with this generation is they’re more mobile than the rest of society,” said Carol Coletta, president of CEOs for Cities. “Those with college degrees are even more mobile.”

Coletta planned to speak on this challenge at the opening lunch of the West Michigan Regional Policy Conference Sept. 18. Her speech, “Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation,” aimed to focus on what businesses and cities can do to bring in the best talent of this generation.

The problem is that every area of the country is competing for this work force. According to Coletta, only 16 of the top 50 metro areas gained 25- to 35-year-olds between 1990 and 2000. “So we had 16 winners and 34 losers, which is not good,” she said. To be competitive, Coletta said cities must do three things: develop their own work force by providing education opportunities for young people, attract new workers and work to keep their fair share of those workers. Young professionals in Grand Rapids and West Michigan agree that the area is doing much to follow Coletta’s advice.

“The city is growing up so quickly,” said Kelly Quintanilla, marketing director for CUSO Development Co. in Ada. “It’s like a start-up company: They don’t have everything figured out yet, but they’re growing so quickly. It’s very exciting.”

The improvements in the region’s downtown areas are particularly enticing to young professionals. According to Coletta, the Millennial generation is 30 percent more likely than past generations to live within a three-mile radius of the central business district.

Kara Wood, economic development director for Grand Rapids, knows the effect a good supply of cool so-called “third places” can have on a city. “They’re very important to young professionals because they need a separate place from work and home,” she said. Kim Bode, marketing director for West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative, suggests cities form advisory boards of young professionals to ask what they needed when they were starting their careers and what do to keep students in the community after graduation.

“But it also falls in young professionals’ laps to get out there and get a voice,” she added.
Source: Business Review, September 2008

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