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Thread: Good practices for retaining young adults?

  1. #1

    Good practices for retaining young adults?

    Hi,

    Over the last decades, I know some state and cities have embarked on initiaives to attract and retain young adults (also called recent grads, creative class or other overlapping labels).

    Have you seen this in your community? Where have you seen states or cities do this well? Links to websites, commercials and other media would be great.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Very few places have had any real luck with this. Young people leave for an education, better job opportunities, and a desired social life. Unless those issues can be addressed, they will not stay. I have worked with many communities who want to believe otherwise, but a new public swimming pool, a local young professionals organization, or local bands playing concerts in the city park will not do it. A job in the rendering plant is not going to cut it for somebody who gets an education and wants to be a mechanical engineer. And frankly, they don't want to hang out with or date somebody who thinks a good job is stripping the feathers off a dead chicken.

    I have done some extensive research of the topic through some projects I completed in rural areas. In our work we have found some radical differences between the perceptions and aspirations of people who were "born and raised and never left" versus those who are from outside of the area and those who left the area. Those who left and returned often did so because of an elderly parent, and it is very common to hear "as soon as mom dies I am out of here." There is another group that has returned because it is a good place to raise of family, but they have an expectation that thier kids will move out, and many of them expect to spend their retirement elsewhere, too. Of the younger people we have surveyed or interviewed, very few wanted to be where they were. Their complaints included few social options, a very limited dating pool, and little opportunity for advancement. They came for a job, and many will leave after puttin in their two or three years.
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  3. #3
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Very few places have had any real luck with this. Young people leave for an education, better job opportunities, and a desired social life. Unless those issues can be addressed, they will not stay.

    [snipped]

    I have done some extensive research of the topic through some projects I completed in rural areas.
    Agreed. The young migrate to cities with copious amenities and varied opportunities in the job and dating markets. Small towns can't compete for the educated young, as they cannot provide amenities like large cities can.

    A good single paper to read about this phenomenon (which is universal and has always happened, likely back to the Neandertals and before) is <a href="http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/main/glc/pdf/glbtsfdemographics.pdf">this one</a>, "Why do gay men live in San Francisco". Don't judge a book by its cover.

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    Cardinal,

    I agree completely. I am a new young planner who moved 1000 miles from family and friends for a job. Your descriptions of young people moving away from smaller cities is right on.

    The people that i have met have come here to take care of ailing grandparents, come just for school or a job. Half of the people here are "transplants" but move out as soon as they can.

    I also find it so interesting that people "born and raised" here, have no desire to leave. They are content where they are and see no point in leaving. There is so much out there and they are happy just seeing in magazines and TV.

    I will be leaving this place in a few months after 13 months to go back to grad school. The city where I'm at does not even provide ammenties to attact and retain young professionals. Their unoffical motto is "if we don't have it, we don't want it here, it's probably in dallas." The lack of social life, opportunity to advance and the dating scene is lacking too far for me to consider staying here another year.

    I think that a city just has to provide places and events where young people can meet other young people. Personally, what a city needs to attact and retain young professionals would be what Cardinal laid out: job opportunities and a social scene.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I've lived in one of the far west suburbs of Chicagoland for a few years now (work next door to my job). There is an excellent trail system, the gym is pretty good, and a nice small sized downtown for a nice evening walk. But hey, that's about it. I don't have any kids, I could give a flying fig about the schools, after-school programs, property values, or the abundance of churches out here.

    It's been very difficult to make friends out here in the far burbs. I have had more luck going into the city to meet my friends or make new ones. Over the past year, I have been trekking back into the city to meet up with friends or make new ones, whether at the bars, clubs, beach, etc. Being single, life is too short to rot away in suburbia. I might plan these communities, but doesn't mean I have to live in one.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hokie_Planner View post
    Cardinal,

    Personally, what a city needs to attact and retain young professionals would be what Cardinal laid out: job opportunities and a social scene.
    A city can help stimulate the available of the former, but the latter is something that it has no real control over. I'd be really curious to see an example of a city that was able to pull this off. It's something that's talked about to death in planning but in every community that I've seen that has a vibrant social scene, planning had little to do with it.

    I was in the same boat as you guys above but moved to the city because I couldn't bear the thought of wasting any more of my 20s in suburbia. I'm fortunate that it's only 20 miles away and an easy (for NY) drive.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Its probably worth taking a look at Richard Florida's work. I don't agree with everything he has to say (and he seems like a bit of a Glory hog to me), but he does make some very good points. For example, he talks a good bit about how the "creative class" (and specifically younger generations - I would say, GenX and younger) views "work" and the importance of what he calls "lateral movements" in a career.

    Young people, educated and with a desired skill set today are in a much more discriminating position with regards to work these days. The idea that someone "stays with the company" for their whole career is not very common anymore. I think another factor in this may be how in the 1980s with downsizing mania many companies simply fired older executive level workers, in some cases days before retirement. The result is that people don't really feel that the company will take care of them. When work gets boring, the office culture is problematic, or people are just looking to do something new and different, those with desired skills will seek out similar work (a lateral move) and sometimes this doesn't even involve more pay - just new and different work. If a city has a lot of opportunities for lateral movement, people are more likely to stick around rather than move away in search of new and different work. The other challenge here is that you need an industry that is attractive to these highly skilled young people and which pays what they perceive of as a decent salary. Waiting tables isn't probably going to do it for these folks, no matter how many opportunities for lateral movement there are.

    He also spends a lot of time trying to identify other kinds of quality-of-life elements that make both talented young people and their potential employers want to relocate to specific areas. Night life, tolerant GBLT views, art scene, public culture (cafes for ex.) are all on his list.

    I think if you are looking to attract and retain less educated, lower income young people, however, upward mobility is likely to be a much more important facet of the local economy than lateral movement. Otherwise, those that have the talent are more likely to go somewhere they can capitalize on their skills and you have lost an investment in the future of your town. In this scenario, the ratio between housing prices and salaries will be very important.

    I think Florida focuses a little too much on a particular demographic (hip, college educated white folks, it seems) and overlooks the role that a burgeoning middle class (if we can swing something like this any time soon) can and should play in urban economic development. And what of minority populations that are also moving up the ranks? How do they view work and place and how will they shape the social fabric of tomorrow? I don't think he does a good job at addressing these questions. Still, there is useful info in there for sure. He's no dummy.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    I agree with what everyone has said so far. I think moving away at a certain age is, in fact, healthy. I tend to worry about people (one half of my family) that has never lived more than 20 miles from where they were born. Get out and see the world, already!

    BUT, if I were playing SimCity, here's what I would do (or work toward):
    • Bring in "creative class" jobs such as architecture and engineering firms
    • Provide great parks. Not neccessarily Central Park-level, but something like Zilker Park in Austin. A dinky 5 acre job with one of those god-awful multi-colored soul-sucking plastic playgrounds won't do it. It helps if there is a body of water around....a real one, we know the difference between a lake and a retention pond.
    • Varied housing choices. Its ridiculous to think a city can retain young adults with only SF housing and the occasional garden apartment/apartment farm. Bring in some townhomes and a couple of multi-level loft-style apartment buildings.
    • A Mixed-Use town center with retail, food & bev, and housing
    • Get rid of all the republicans. Oops...was that out loud?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen View post
    I agree with what everyone has said so far. I think moving away at a certain age is, in fact, healthy. I tend to worry about people (one half of my family) that has never lived more than 20 miles from where they were born. Get out and see the world, already!

    BUT, if I were playing SimCity, here's what I would do (or work toward):
    • Bring in "creative class" jobs such as architecture and engineering firms
    • Provide great parks. Not neccessarily Central Park-level, but something like Zilker Park in Austin. A dinky 5 acre job with one of those god-awful multi-colored soul-sucking plastic playgrounds won't do it. It helps if there is a body of water around....a real one, we know the difference between a lake and a retention pond.
    • Varied housing choices. Its ridiculous to think a city can retain young adults with only SF housing and the occasional garden apartment/apartment farm. Bring in some townhomes and a couple of multi-level loft-style apartment buildings.
    • A Mixed-Use town center with retail, food & bev, and housing
    • Get rid of all the republicans. Oops...was that out loud?
    Please stay apolitical.

    I'm a moderate republican land use planner who IRONICALLY supports most of your points, but the last line is a big slam. Illinoisplanner what are your thoughts on this guy?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Please stay apolitical.

    I'm a moderate republican land use planner who IRONICALLY supports most of your points, but the last line is a big slam. Your credibility is in the toilet. Illinoisplanner, do you have anything to add?
    I apologize if I offended you, I should have stated that in a less joking manner.

    The message behind that, however, is one that I find to be valid: cities that are more left-leaning or moderate politically and provide more socially liberal freedoms (see R. Florida's Gay & Bohemian Indices) are more likely to attract and retain the young adult/creative class. I suppose the more PC way for me to have said that would be "Bring in some democrats to balance out the political climate if your city is right-leaning." Remember, I prefaced that list with "if I were playing SimCity"...

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    It's unprofesisonal and offensive. I grew up in Oak Park IL (very progressive, left-winged) and Park Ridge, IL (much more conservative). Both towns have remarkable planning. My father, who is far more conservative than me, is the President of the Park Ridge Library Board and the library site has been totally re-designed with new pavers, retaining walls, lighting, and landscaping. A librarian and urban historican, he is trying to have the entire buillding razed and a new modernized library with more shelf space, study areas, etc.

    My boss is a landscape architect and is an outspoken supporter of sustainability, LEED-AP, best management practices, etc. He is also a republican. I live in Wheaton, which has the most churches per capita in the nation (very conservative town). There is a huge development plan south of the downtown that will include a mixture of housing types, mixed uses, and open space (my firm is short-listed for this project). So yeah, I guess good planning goes on in those backwards conservative towns that tries to attract younger people.

    Do you want me to go on? I can name several republicans who are progressive on land use issues. The CORRECT, PC way is to leave political affiliations aside when it comes to these issues. Conservatives, moderates, and libertarians might share many of the same ideas with you when it comes to development. I think it's tactless to weave poltiical affiliations into this.

    BTW, what the hell does SimCity have to do with political affiliations?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    It's unprofesisonal and offensive. I grew up in Oak Park IL (very progressive, left-winged) and Park Ridge, IL (much more conservative). Both towns have remarkable planning. My father, who is far more conservative than me, is the President of the Park Ridge Library Board and the library site has been totally re-designed with new pavers, retaining walls, lighting, and landscaping. A librarian and urban historican, he is trying to have the entire buillding razed and a new modernized library with more shelf space, study areas, etc.

    My boss is a landscape architect and is an outspoken supporter of sustainability, LEED-AP, best management practices, etc. He is also a republican. I live in Wheaton, which has the most churches per capita in the nation (very conservative town). There is a huge development plan south of the downtown that will include a mixture of housing types, mixed uses, and open space (my firm is short-listed for this project). So yeah, I guess good planning goes on in those backwards conservative towns that tries to attract younger people.

    Do you want me to go on? I can name several republicans who are progressive on land use issues. The CORRECT, PC way is to leave political affiliations aside when it comes to these issues. Conservatives, moderates, and libertarians might share many of the same ideas with you when it comes to development. I think it's tactless to weave poltiical affiliations into this.

    BTW, what the hell does SimCity have to do with political affiliations?
    Wow, I seem to have hit a sensitive nerve with this one. Again sorry if I offended (and great for your Dad and Boss...sounds like they are doing/did some good things) but I didn't in any way insinuate that republicans/conservatives do everything wrong (my own dear mother is a republican, by the way, and I still love her).

    What I originally meant to say, and clarified in my second post, is that the inarguable fact of the matter is that moderate and left-leaning cities are more capable of attracting and retaining the creative class because those are the types of cities that creative class individuals are typically attracted to. That is not weaving personal politics into the matter, that is stating what is statistically the case: political climate serves to attract certain types of people. I in no way said that political affiliation determines how good a person is or what type of planning work they are capable of. If it makes you feel better, I would remove that comment from my original post if the message board software would let me.

    To answer you question "what does SimCity have to do with it": In my original post I said "if I were playing SimCity" meaning "if I had complete control of the situation, such as in a video game, here is what could be done to attract creative class people."

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    In the future, I would recommend that you spend a little more time and attention to how you phrase things on this forum. You said that republicans where not fit to work or live in a community, and I find that comment extremely rude and offensive. Do you have any examples of these progressive communities to back your arguments?
    Last edited by nrschmid; 24 Sep 2008 at 9:46 PM.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Great discussion FBR and NRS! Love it! It makes me think of Michigan, two cities in particular that are usually at the top of the "most liveable cities" lists - Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.

    A2 the venerable crunchy liberal college town that is kicking and screaming toward gentrification, and GR the republican capital of western Michigan, the birthplace of pyramid schemes, and home to the most church steeples per capita of furniture makers.

    All kidding aside, both cities are great, have their own unique but loveable idiosyncracies, but politically, are complete opposites. Each have their charms, and I don't think it's overly optimistic (by way of simplistic overgeneralizations to illustrate a point) to assume that conservative church-goers have found a way to make it in Ann Arbor; and vice-versa, that it's likely the gay community has found a comfortable niche in Grand Rapids.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The USDA came up with a creativity index based on Richard Florida's work. What is interesting to look at are the non-metropolitan communities that rank near the top of the list. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/creativeclasscodes/
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  16. #16

    Another word from a young Planner

    I agree with nearly all of the above comments... I've always thought that having a four year school, even a small one, can be helpful in retaining the "working young." Many young people either stay in the area to be around other young people, like the cultural awareness that a college brings, or have some of the best years of their life and decide to stay. I'd love to see some research on this myself, I've always had a "hunch" that this was true, and have been praying that our local comm. college would begin offering four year programs, for no other reason than there would be some interesting people who would inevitably be brought in to speak.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen View post
    . . . What I originally meant to say, and clarified in my second post, is that the inarguable fact of the matter is that moderate and left-leaning cities are more capable of attracting and retaining the creative class because those are the types of cities that creative class individuals are typically attracted to. That is not weaving personal politics into the matter, that is stating what is statistically the case: political climate serves to attract certain types of people. . . "
    I definitely see it in some instances (an artist moving to NYC or San Fransisco) but when you look at educated young people as a whole, the Rust Belt to Sun Belt migration has people moving from liberal to more conservative areas. Houston and Charlotte aren't the most liberal cities but it's where young people are being attracted to. I imagine the arts scenes will follow the young people in time.

    Ultimately in these discussions, I guess it depends on who is deemed to be worthy of the title "creative class."

  18. #18
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    I definitely see it in some instances (an artist moving to NYC or San Fransisco) but when you look at educated young people as a whole, the Rust Belt to Sun Belt migration has people moving from liberal to more conservative areas. Houston and Charlotte aren't the most liberal cities but it's where young people are being attracted to. I imagine the arts scenes will follow the young people in time.

    Ultimately in these discussions, I guess it depends on who is deemed to be worthy of the title "creative class."
    I would venture a guess that the factors that attract the creative class (hereafter "CC") probably can vary in intensity. For example, a city doesn't have a whole lot of parks, but it has more than its share of hi-tech jobs, which balances out.

    I don't have experience with Charlotte, but central Houston (Houston should really be 3 or 4 cities, by the way) is, I would say, moderate if not slightly to the left. The area in particular that I am thinking of is the Montrose Neighborhood, which has a large population of artists, gays/lesbians, and "bohemians."

  19. #19

    Thanks and continue discussion

    Thanks for all the tips- especially the Creative Class County Codes link. I am spending some time on the website now: http://creativeclass.com/

    I do share the concern/critique mentioned above that planners shouldn't blindly cater to a narrow band of "desirable: young adult residents without thinking about how all constituents can improve their quality of life in place.

    Also- any good state or city youth retention websites that you know of? I have seen Vermont's (http://www.pursuevt.org/), but thought it was a bit flat.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    FuelbyRamen:

    I am a conservative and a planner. I want walkability, a less dependence on cars, a good social scene, and inclusion of everyone in our cities. How is that possible? When I was at a conference last year politics was brought up and all the planners were "liberal because planners are suppose to be liberal, right" See what I mean? No one knows why exactly.

    In our larger cities there are more poor, more minorities, and more GLBT persons. All of these are liberal. Do these things alone make cities so wonderful? No. I assume when you think republicans are bad its because they are the close-minded farmers who want McMansions and car-orientated development. Suburbs are far more conservative because there are older people (who are more conservative in general) and more traditional families with children (who are also more conservative). I don't think those are bad things.

    College towns are liberal because of all the professors and students don't have cars, so towns have to be walkable. I won't disagree. I loved my college town as much as anyone. But think of this please, business owners are usually Republican and without business cities can not exist. You CAN NOT make a good city by coffee shops and used clothing stores alone. You need some meat and potatoes.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Several communities have been using internships for college students as a way to get young adults to stay in the area. Often these internships evolve into full-time employment after graduation. The idea is to introduce students - who may be from other regions and states - to the job, career, and other opportunities available in the college community. These initiatives are typically spearheaded by alliances between colleges and universities, or by non-profit organizations.

    The Knowledge Industry Partnership in Philadelphia (now Campus Philly) is the first one I read about, but there are others.

    Some examples here.

    Article about a similar initiative in Columbus, Ohio

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