It’s been nine years since Richard Florida, who had not yet published his seminal book on the “creative class,” was the first guest on the inaugural Smart City program, eight years since he advised our colleague Carol Coletta on Memphis Talent Magnet Report and seven years since they co-hosted the Memphis Manifesto Summit in our city when 150 of the best and brightest wrote what cities should do to attract and keep them.
We’re proud that Memphis pioneered questions of creative workers, talent strategies and solutions pursued by many other cities. Unfortunately, Memphis squandered its golden chances to set the standard on the issue of talent, but if we believe anything in our city, we believe that it is that it’s never too late.
That’s why we were so excited to see MPACT Memphis take such substantive action to ask 1500 young professionals about their opinions about Memphis, about what they like and what they don’t like, why they live here and much, much more. In our work in other cities, what this key demographic wants can be summed up in four things: they want a city green, clean, safe and allows them to live the life they want to live.
Those conclusions seem borne out in MPACT’s Voice of MPACT survey, and we urge you to get a copy and read it in detail if you care about whether Memphis can compete in today’s knowledge economy. We can’t think off hand of any city that now has more information about young professionals, and that gives Memphis yet another opportunity to get ahead of the pack by understanding precisely what our challenges are and where our opportunities like.
More to the point, all of us need to get in the game – local government, economic development organizations, nonprofits, foundations and more – because for the first time, we have definitive research on the priorities that we need to address and a sense of where the biggest payoffs will occur. There’s no time like the present, because in spite of the overwhelming positive opinions of Memphis (75% are proud of their city), 32% don’t see themselves in Memphis in five years and 50% don’t see themselves here in 10 years.
State of the City
Among the factoids in the report that caught our attention are:
77% disagree that Memphis is an environmentally friendly city
68% say Memphis is a good place to raise a family but it better get crime under control to make it better
70% of young professionals thinking about moving say it’s because other places have better jobs opportunities
53% say their employers encourage community involvement
49% say they don’t feel safe and secure
65% say property taxes aren’t reasonable
62% say Memphis’ government services aren’t good
75% say tax dollars aren’t spent wisely
70% don’t use public transit (too unreliable, too slow, doesn’t go where they need it to go)
72% don’t consider Memphis high-tech and 81% say it’s not a tech-friendly city
71% say that all races aren’t treated equally and fairly in Memphis
78% have a diverse group of friends
67% feel that they belong in Memphis
Finally, memorize this one: 46% say Memphis isn’t the city they’d most prefer to live in now
Getting On The Map
All of this reminds us of May, 2003, when Mr. Florida came to Memphis to co-host the Memphis Manifesto Summit along with Carol Coletta who organized the three-day event for 150 “creatives.” Sponsored by Memphis Tomorrow, the Summit was envisioned as an event that would put Memphis solidly on the talent map, and the summit and the its manifesto did attract major coverage by national media and is used by numerous cities, young professionals’ groups and arts groups to define their agendas for the future. It also was included in the paperback edition of Mr. Florida’s book.
A thread through all of this work was that to succeed, Memphis must shake its tendency to hunt for so-called best practices and to drop them into Memphis as the latest and greatest answer to all that ails us. We have been loathe in Memphis to leverage our own unique assets to develop best practices of our own.
It’s About Place
As Kip Bergstrom, a favorite economic development guru of ours, said at the Manifesto Summit, place has never has been more important than it is today. He said the questions facing cities like ours are: How does a city discover its essence and capitalize on its authenticity? Can a city be economically successful and not lose its soul?
It led Mr. Bergstrom to “place-based economic development,” a philosophy never as effective as when cities use it to try to attract creative workers. First and foremost, it means that city economic development agencies should abandon the “place neutral” approach that produces more suburban office parks and sprawl and instead, create closer working relationships with city centers.
The logic of place-based economic development is obvious. Competitive advantage today is based in differentiation, and it is what’s distinctive about Memphis that is hardest to imitate and generates the kind of mythology that no city can duplicate.
Seedbed For Innovation
Place, too, is critical in the birth of the brand of creativity that’s needed for innovation. After all, four things are needed for innovation: smart people with ideas, tolerance for risk, a supportive market for new ideas and places to share ideas.
In light of these facts, CEOs for Cities concluded that 1) cities with the highest concentrations of creative people and creative jobs are in a favored position to generate more ideas and more innovations, and 2) cities should take what’s being learned about fostering idea sharing in the workplace and apply that to the public realm.
But little of this was known way back in 2001 when Mr. Florida was interviewed on that first broadcast of Smart City. The economic impact of creative workers was just being understood, much less the overall importance of creative industries.
The Facts Remain
And yet, the facts are just as stark today as they were then to the cadre of Memphians addressing these issues back then:
* This generation of 25-34 year-olds are the most mobile in history, and in addition, the better educated among them are more likely to move long distances.
* Successful cities will ensure that their climate is appealing to young creative people, a group typically neglected by city boosters.
* Memphis’ competitive challenge is shown in its low rankings of technology, economy and tolerance.
* Memphis ranks poorly in the creative economy.
What we’ve learned in the intervening years is that Memphis is not alone, but there are some critical facts of life that have to lay at the heart of any talent strategies:
* Two-thirds of top 50 metros lost 25-34 year-olds, creating a “rich get richer” syndrome that threatens cities unable to compete for these workers.
* Almost two-thirds of this demographic pick where to live before they pick where to work.
* These young creative workers want to live in a place that is clean, green, safe and allows them to be themselves.
* These creatives are 33 percent more likely to live within three miles of the central business district, and 41 percent of the creative jobs are within the same three miles.
* Most incredibly of all, about 25 percent of creatives work for themselves.
News Good And Bad
It’s an environment of great opportunity for cities that get it right.
The bad news for Memphis is that most of the recommendations from years ago remain to be executed. The good news is that many of them remain just as relevant today, and the best news of all is that MPACT has laid the foundation for us to help it develop a carefully thought-out talent plan for our city.
MPACT has always been the model for other young professional groups, and once again, it proves why it is. Now, let’s find the resources – financial and civic – so it can take its research to the next level and make sure that we don’t miss this opportunity. It may be our last.
Stats are deceptive. Most college graduates want to work where they grew up … so in a sense, yea, they do look to location before they look for a specific job. But to imply that college graduates are going over a list of cities and picking them base on “green” criteria is just non-sense.
It’s hype and marketing. If New Orleans is considered cool, then college graduates who are looking to move away might look there. However, once a graduate determines that there isn’t a job near home, then the job becomes the important factor.
I went to Miami for an interview. What did I know about the city? Nothing … Nada … except for that it was in a warm climate and in a state with no income taxes (A state with no income taxes got priority for me … as did a warm climate). I went to the interview for the job. But I was offered a higher paying job in Memphis … so that’s where I went.
If the job is good and the pay is right, they’ll come to Memphis. If not … being green won’t make much of a difference.
Your right Midtowner, being a green city want attract businesses and educated workers, its like you said “non-sense.” What Smart City is trying to say is by Memphis becoming a green, clean, and safe city this will send a message to the world that Memphis is changing and the city is adopting to innovating and forward thinking ideas. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that??? This would be a major factor in attracting businesses and educated workers. For Memphis to grow, more cards in the deck will need to line up first, but greening Memphis would be a great start and monumental leap.
True to a point Midtowner. I had my own experience. I am an architect and , now, an urban planner. I’m not originally from Memphis, but spent a great deal of my childhood growing up and graduating from high school here. I graduated from college in 2005. After graduation I determined that I wanted to live in a handful of cities: New York, Chicago, Dallas or Philadelphia (I also considered an offer from China, but that was purely money and fame). In order to placate my parents, I also interviewed with 3 firms in Memphis that seemed to conform to my goals. I was the only one in my graduating class (College of Architecture) to apply to a firm in Memphis. Of the job offers I received, I found one in New York that paid only slightly more than an offer here in Memphis, essentially making up for the cost of living. What did I choose? Well New York of course, who wouldn’t? I think part of what the post says is that there are many out there who never look at employment in Memphis in the first place. If my parents had not weighed so heavily on my decision making process, I know I would have never sought employment here in the first place.
First we have to make Memphis a consideration for graduates as they begin their job hunts. Right now, it is not. Some of what I get from the post is that Memphis will have a tough time competing for these talented individuals if it comes down to salaries. This is not a wealthy city in the corporate sense and high paying jobs make up a very limited percentage of our overall job base. Memphis needs to be able to compete on a level playing field. I am not convince that at present, all things being equal (salary when adjusted for cost of living, benefits, etc…), that someone would choose Memphis over say Dallas or Nashville, Charlotte or other cities. At present, an individual might struggle if faced with choosing Memphis over Chattanooga, Oklahoma City and Louisville. First we have to get Memphis on the radar of these young professionals and then we have to make it a solid contender as a place where individuals want to live. We need to put Memphis in a position where people come here looking for employment or to start their own business whether they are graduating from the University of Memphis or the University of Michigan, from the University of Tennessee or the University of Texas. These lists and studies tell us what such a city should look like and even show us some of the paths we need to start down, but there has been little movement or signs of progress towards accomplishing these goals thus far. Interestingly enough, Midtown is one of the places in this city that contains a lot of the physical, social and economic attributes that attract this segment of the population.
60% of 25-34 year-olds pick the city pick where they want to live and then pick where they want to work. Our conclusions are based on qualitative and quantitative research in six cities and CEOs for Cities polling through Yankelovich.
You are mistaken in how and why 25-34 year-olds are selecting cities where they live. Green is a major determinant in all of this polling and focus groups. And clearly that’s the conclusion of our business community since they are investing heavily in improving our green assets like Shelby Farms Park and the Greenline, etc. You underestimate the importance of these markers that get Memphis on the list to be considered.
One more thing and I’ll be quiet. To add to the “greening of Memphis” as a starting point, one of the other aspects we need to ensure is in place are interest groups. One of the big draws of moving to the cities that make up the one-third of metros that are attracting this demographic is the idea that you are among friends or at least like minded persons. These individuals share the same drive and goals- to be near the center, to be a part of “it”, and to be in a place where collaboration and the sharing of ideas with others can result in amazing accomplishments. In my case, I wanted to find an active architecture community- NY offers Open House New York where the city’s greatest architectural achievements are open to the public, there is a continuous parade of speakers and lectures sponsored by local universities and firms and there are numerous networking events that invite individuals of all firms to gather and socialize for cocktail hours to do nothing but meet each other and well- it is the center of the universe. Fortunately Memphis has its own programs such as the Pizza with the Planners series, a nascent Architecture Week (which has a lot of room to grow and should) and occasionally a lecture is advertised if one looks hard enough. We need to make sure there are events and groups such as these- and more- for all professions and interests and we need to shout their availability and events from the rooftops so that everyone who is interested can take part. This will ensure the Memphis scene is both exciting and engaging for existing residents and those looking to locate here. The best part- it’s cheap and the foundation already exists.
Sorry we were on the run to a meeting, and we didn’t finish our thought.
The importance placed these issues is most of all about a green ethos. It’s one that results in high-quality public transit, good park system, vibrant downtown, sustainable practices, etc. It’s not about one thing. It’s about all of them, and those are ideals that we surely need to emulate.
Urbanut: You don’t ever need to be quiet. We appreciate your willingness to engage in conversations on these issue. You make an important point. What’s happening now is that smart people are moving to where smart people are, and about 15 cities are gobbling up most of the college-educated 25-34 year-olds. To ignore the factors that cause these moves or that encourages young professionals to stay here is a serious mistake, a point that you have well-made.
I don’t buy it for an instant! I, and many others, have been there … coming out of college looking for a job. You can’t be picky when there are fewer jobs than graduates.
You can’t tell me … especially in this economy … that a person would turn down a job with a good salary in Tupelo, MS because it doesn’t have mass transit and a bunch of nice parks. And many first jobs are just stepping stones.
Heck, if I were college graduate in this economy looking for a job, I’d even take one in Detroit or Minneapolis if I had to … but I’d bail at the first opportunity.
I’ve done surveys and polls and it’s all the way you ask the questions. Pose the questions a certain way and you’ll probably get the results you’re looking for.
The reputation of Memphis … like the Forbes list … has nothing to do with “green” but with crime, lousy schools, and corrupt officials. Fix those and you’ll get a good start on the other parts.
Clean up the streets! Memphis used to be good about this now there is trash everywhere.
Cut the grass!
Demolish old buildings that were confiscated for taxes.
This isn’t “green”. This is basic maintenance which this city has been ignoring to build convention centers and basketball arenas. Take care of the basics and the rest will follow.
You take care of the basics, then maybe you’ll get the industry (bio-tech, FedEx, etc) to locate here. You get the firms then you’ll get the employees. We can be as “green” as we please but they aren’t coming here if there isn’t a job.
Urbanut, a good friend of mine growing up also became an architect. He went to NYC because that is where architects he said that was where architects needed to go gain the experience he wanted. After two years, he got his experience that he needed and then he left. NYC is considered to be “green” but he didn’t care. That didn’t matter to him at all.
I’m not sure where the term green was officially introduced into this discussion. My choice to go to NYC had nothing to do with it being “green” per see, but had everything to do with the quality the firms, the nature of their work, the high quality of life and the cultural and professional landscape that NYC and several other city’s offer. It had as much to do with the fact that many of the other great designers, both existing and new were there and to be amongst them offered an unparallel experience. Why did they move there- for the same reasons I did. Another part of my decision was based on the fact that I appreciate urban design- that is building design that actually relates to its surroundings and knows its place in the city through setbacks, scale and details- something we see rarely done well in Memphis. In order to better design and plan in an urban place, I believe one must have experience living in an urban place.
All that to say, that my experience was not alone. My fellow graduates moved thousands of miles in numerous cases in order to live in San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Portland, Chicago and Boston despite the fact that we had plenty of local firms offering jobs in our University’s backyard. The question as we neared graduation was not what firms are you applying with, it was where (as in what city) are you looking? I can’t speak to what mattered to your friend, but for me and those I graduated with, I don’t know if anyone asked what the school system was like in Seattle before moving there. We just knew through design work and publications that something was, and still is, happening there that was energetic, exciting and was attracting large numbers of graduate like ourselves.
I appreciate the fact that your friend worked in NYC to gain experience- the firms there definitely have a wealth of it to offer. What year was all this taking place? NY (and many of the cities being discussed) were far different back in 1998 than they were in 2008. You will notice they moved there first and not Memphis. As far as leaving, that has more to do with personal preferences and the type of work they want to do. If it’s suburban design, then NYC is not the place for you and it would really be a waste of one’s time. What design work do they like to do? What did they do when they were in NYC? Where do they live now? What are their goals? Making money regardless of the project, then maybe his criteria were not the same others, but it doesn’t make it less worthwhile. If forced to choose between the two, I and many of the people I have worked with in NYC and elsewhere, would rather design great buildings than make obscene amounts of money. That said, New York is not the place for everyone, but there is a reason why so many from so many backgrounds choose to go there and to other cities after graduation over places like Memphis that go way beyond the income and maintenance issues. I would take a job that offered less pay to work with great architects in Chicago than take more pay to work in the vacuum that is Tupelo. If you think that money alone drives the decision of the vast majority of these young professionals and simple maintenance is enough in and of itself, then places like Oklahoma City and Tulsa (which are very clean, safe and have a good reputation as far as public education) should be booming. Even if you tackle all the maintenance issues you suggest, this city would still not be able to compete with Austin. Why would someone come here if all we have to offer is clean streets, low crime and decent schools. Half of our peer cities in just our region have that. The point is that it takes more to attract the majority that define this demographic.
I think you are right on about the slim pickings being offered in the U.S. at present and its impact on the ability for college graduates to be picky. If anything it has bought Memphis a little time in which it can catch up before the economy begins growing in earnest again. However, don’t think that this demographic is limiting itself to domestic choices. Look at Newsweek’s recent story regarding the number of US college graduates moving to China- it appealed to me back in ’05 when things were hot here and is even more appealing now. You know what they call the working class that includes architects over there? Well you have blue collar, white collar and then you have gold collar.
Please pardon my many typing and grammatical errors- I was trying to get that out fast.
Midtowner: We appreciate your opinion. It’s just not borne out by the facts, the research or the reality. All you have to do if look at the migration trends of 25-34 year-olds and you’ll see that you are simply wrong.
We like some of your other ideas for Memphis, but it’s worth always remembering that every dot in a city connects to all the other dots, so you can’t take issues in isolation, whether green or crime or neighborhood rebirth.
Green may be a major determinant in where people who complete surveys wants to live, but I think that it’s impact is vastly overstated. Most of this country doesn’t care about green. The South, specifically, is afraid of the impact of green on it’s industries and growth. Further, the South is quite rural and people are less conscious of the environment because they have more and more land to lay waste to. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco – they care about green. But they are only a portion of the nation. On the whole, green still doesn’t matter to the vast majority.
Not to detract from the efforts of the folks at MPACT, but there are several flaws in the survey methods and the analysis of the survey itself. This was clearly not a survey that was created or administered by person familiar with researching these sorts of things. For example, it was simply assumed that green was an issue, and people were asked to name their top green priorities. Nowhere was the option “I don’t care about green” given. And even if it were, those likely to fill out the survey wouldn’t likely choose it, because, well, it’s not socially acceptable to do so.
Let me say it again. The NATIONAL polling and focus groups we’ve done all over the country – and the Southern ones include Tampa, Atlanta, Richmond – tell us that green does matter. In fact, it does not matter where you talk with college-educated 25-34 year-olds, they say it matters.
In that regard, we think MPACT was precisely correct in having green on their survey because it is in fact a documented factor in decisions made by the kind of talent that we need to develop, retain, and attract.
Also, independent polling by Memphis pollster Steve Ethridge confirmed the same point in his work with Sustainable Shelby. Shelby Countians of all ages and locations said that environmental issues matter to them and that we need to do a better job of protecting it, halting sprawl, improving public transit, increasing recreational options, stopping pollution, etc.
It’s not our grandfather’s South any more.
Let me say it again:
Green may be a major determinant in where college educated people between 25-34 who complete surveys wants to live, but I think that it’s impact is vastly overstated. The sample is not necessarily indicative of what’s actually going on. And the relationships that are inferred aren’t necessarily the ones in place.
I don’t think MPACT was incorrect in having green on the survey and I didn’t say that they were. I think that blindly following this sort of polling as if it were the gospel is a mistake. People, especially those who are active in causes (read: likely to fill out this sort of survey) love to talk about being green, and that’s great. But in practice, there’s not a whole lot of green going on. The survey even makes a point of that. A glance out my window at all the SUVs with a single passenger and the lack of bicycles and foot traffic (downtown even) affirms it.
The bottom line? Sustainability is not a bad thing, but it’s also not the end of the world factor that people sometimes want to make it out to be. Look at your own numbers. 77% don’t think Memphis is environmentally friendly, 67% feel they belong in Memphis, and 46% would rather live here than anywhere else. If green is really such a big deal, then why aren’t those 77% on the road to greener pastures? Why did 70% say that they’d move because of better jobs, did the other 30% say they’d move to be more green?
Downtowner, you state the unimportance that these issues carry by referencing the view out your window. One of the main points is that Memphis is struggling to attract the individuals that are part of this demographic. Thus, you will not see much in the way of that activity here, because those individuals are not moving here. You are right, there is not a whole lot of green going on here and you will also notice that young educated professionals are not exactly flooding the streets as well.
There are pockets of said activity and you can find them if you are willing to look. Several neighborhoods in Midtown are excellent examples of citizens eating, shopping and living locally. Biking has gained enough interest and support that there are plans to reconfigure Cooper to remove a lane of traffic and add a dedicated bike lane. In practice, much of what is described is occurring in other cities around the country, but one needs to step away from the window and go to those cities to experience it.
Who said that given the opportunity that 70% will not be on the road to greener pastures? Given the opportunity, or if I create my own opportunity, I know I will seriously consider it.
Funny that you mention that Urbanut. I happen to be a 25-34 year old college educated young professional who relocated to Memphis last year. I was at the Tour de Grizz on Saturday as well as the Midnight ride last fall. I’m about to go outside and take a walk in Tom Lee Park. Memphis attracted me, but it didn’t do it with green. I wish that someone would ask, “Why did you choose to live here?” instead of “What would you look for when choosing a place to live.” The actual reasons people relocate would be interesting to know – instead of just the ideals that they want to project. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Memphis’ struggles to attract my demographic are not due to it’s not being environmentally friendly.
You’ll consider it for a better opportunity, not a greener opportunity.
Downtowner: Great point. That first question is part of the national polling and focus groups that we’ve done and is folded into the conclusions that were reflected in this post. Underlying so much of what influences young professionals is a government that gets the basics right.
A greener opportunity is part and parcel of that better opportunity. That’s the point we’re trying to make. If you look at the 15 cities who are the winners in sucking up most of the young professionals, you’ll see a strong green ethos that feeds into a culture of creativity and economic vitality. But it’s not green assets along. As we’ve said, all things are connected and green is part of that connection.
There is the problem. The whole “green” message that has distorted this whole thread is simply one of many aspects mentioned in the poll that is necessary in creating the type of environment that attracts the demographic in question. Good job on your involvement, a slap on the back is no doubt well deserved. So tell us, why did you choose Memphis? Did you decide you wanted to live in Memphis first and then start looking for a job? Where are you originally from, both before the relocation and from before college?
The reason I support many of the ideas here is that while there are some that want to deny its relevance it actually describes the pattern I personally and many of those I know experienced after graduation. No, the environmental sustainability of a community was not a driving factor in choosing where I wanted to live, but the quality of life and the degree to which other young professionals such as myself were locating there was a key component in my decisions.
Smart City Memphis: Now we’re getting somewhere. You’ve developed a link between these 15 cities and a green ethos. Now the question becomes one of which came first? Is the green ethos attracting the young talent, or is the young talent bringing the green ethos. I suggest that it’s the latter.
The data are clear. Green begets talent. And green came first. Unmistakably.
So if a green ethos was developed by said demographic then it stands to reason that this particular group finds the issue to be important. Thus, in order to support Memphis’s ability to attract the same group, it stands to reason that we should present our city as actively supporting this interest, correct?
Urbanut: The green ethos wasn’t developed by the demographic. It was part of the city’s psyche, and that became a feature that talent responded to and gave more momentum to it. The city should actively support this interest by maintaining and improving parks, add bike and walking trails, improving MATA, fighting sprawl, etc.
Here’s the news report on the national survey I’ve been mentioning, and I think you can find something in here you agree we.
– Job opportunities are secondary, but cities must get the “basics” right –
Chicago — Two-thirds of highly mobile 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees say that they will decide where they live first, then look for a job, according to a new survey commissioned by CEOs for Cities and conducted by The Segmentation Company, a division of marketing consultancy Yankelovich Inc.
The survey follows the December 2005 report by CEOs for Cities titled The Young and Restless in a Knowledge Economy, which warned urban leaders to attract and retain college-educated workers to compete in the knowledge economy. A city’s best chance to attract these workers, the report said, is to focus on the most mobile of the group, those 25 to 34 years old.
The survey marks the first time that the preferences of this highly coveted group have been quantified. The results are based on online surveys of 1,000 25- to 34-year-old college-educated men and women from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations conducted March 3-11, 2006.
“The December report confirmed that college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds are critical to the success of cities,” said Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders. “These new data tell us what they value and how they make decisions about where they choose to live.
“When you look at trends, such as the influence of women in the workforce, the fact that technology advances allow people to stay connected from virtually anywhere and that people are less loyal to companies, these numbers make perfect sense,” Coletta added. “This freedom has made place much more prominent.”
Key findings included:
• Two-thirds of college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds choose place before job, and this preference was true across all life stages and genders (male, female, single, married, with children, without children).
• Women place greater emphasis on the location decision than do men, although a majority of men also say they choose place before job.
• Basic quality of life issues (clean and attractive, can live the life I want to lead, safe streets and neighborhoods, can afford to buy a home, lots of parks and green space) ranked highest among attributes that young people looked for in a city.
• A place that feels welcoming, offers professional opportunities, has reasonable commute times, access to excellent schools, is a great place to raise children, is a place people are proud to say they live in were among attributes young people looked for in a city.
• Lifestyle attributes are also important to this demographic. They prefer places where they can connect with others and have meaningful social interactions; that are interesting and diverse; and are environmentally responsible.
• Young adults have a strong inclination to live downtown or close to downtown.
• Knowledge of city attributes is limited. When asked where they would like to live, respondents were quick to answer. But when asked why, their reasons were vague.
• Young adults rely most heavily on personal stories from friends and family to form their perceptions about a place. They also use the Internet and personal visits to shape their opinions.
“The good news for urban leaders is that these findings point to actions that they can take to make their cities more desirable to this demographic,” said Meredith Gilfeather, who directed the survey for Yankelovich.
Opportunities for urban leaders to attract and retain this desirable demographic include:
• Take care of the basics – Make sure your city is clean, green, safe and inviting. The basic functions of government such as trash collection and keeping parks maintained and litter off the streets will go a long way to bringing and keeping people. While it is not the only factor, a city that doesn’t take care of the basics will likely be dismissed or overlooked by this demographic.
• Make it easy for young people to reach their aspirations and goals – Young people are the most entrepreneurial in America, so foster their want for personal and professional success by, for instance, naming a talent czar who guides entrepreneurs through the process of starting a new business in the city. The aura of opportunity is very powerful.
• Highlight your downtown and close-in neighborhoods – Young people are 30 percent more likely than other Americans to live within three miles of a city’s center. This percentage has been increasing since 1980 (and dramatically since 1990) in each of the top 50 metro areas in the U.S.
• Develop a compelling narrative about your city. Because young people have only vague notions of what a city is like, this poses an opportunity for a city to define and brand itself and market that image to young people. But don’t promise something that can’t be delivered. And don’t settle for a tagline, logo or slogan to do the job.
• Work with local stakeholders to build a dynamic web presence that is appealing to tech and design-savvy young people and that accurately portrays your city’s narrative.
Back to the an earlier point- your definition of a better opportunity and my definition of a better opportunity might be the key to this discussion. If offered the same income (or even slightly less), I would be tempted to choose a city with a higher quality of life which for me equates to many of the issues discussed in the post above. I chose NYC over Memphis even though the pay was pretty much the same (adjusted for cost of living). It was the right choice and I would do it again.
Got it. But for the majority of this demographic (and clearly you’re in the one-third where it doesn’t apply), it’s not about being offered the same income. That’s the thing. It’s why FedEx can’t recruit people here now, and we’ve all heard the stories of the academic stars they took to the Orange Bowl, wined and dined them, and not one came to Memphis. It’s not about salaries to most of this demographic, which is what defines them from earlier ones. It’s about quality of life and clean, green, safe, and live the life they want to live is what they are looking for, back to our original point.
SMC- it’s very easy to agree with the study. My point regarding the “green ethos” was following the idea of talent first for arguments sake. NYC was planning the waterfront parks on the Westside in the 70’s- back when the only thing it seemed to be a magnet for was crime, corruption and blight.
One of the biggest hurdles however is breaking an ingrained thought process that exists. It is almost industrial in its foundation- the whole factories attracting farm hands out of the fields. The fact that the rules have changed, and changed very quickly, will require continued education, exposure and debate.
No argument here.
Maybe it’s semantics but it’s not about following talent. It’s about creating the kind of nurturing, supportive place where they can find the life they want. We don’t have one and that was pretty clear in the MPACT survey. Most of all, as you say, it is about breaking an ingrained attitude that runs directly back to our agricultural and river roots. To your point, the rules are changing and drastically. Memphis is way behind the curve.
I for one put income on the back burner. I knew I could make a living to support myself regardless of where I went. Thus it became about place which can be defined by all the things that SCM is talking about here.
I think our talking points and the party to which we were replying got crossed. My fault!
I realized that as I hit send. Sorry to have meshed them all together. My fault, not yours.
OK, I see the flaw … you’re lumping “green spaces” with “safe neighborhoods and affordable housing”. Downtowner articulated the argument better than I did … but I agree with him. I think you’re overstating the green part.
Like I said, it’s the “buzz” about a city … in many academic circles, Portland is considered a “cool” place to live. But I have very good friends who lived there for years and have moved away frustrated with the place. But the perception is that it is “cool” … and perception is reality.
Now that we’ve had a regime change in Memphis perhaps we can get rid of the bad press in Forbes. Memphis needs to do the basics … clean up and crime fighting … then market itself. Start its own buzz.
>>>there is a continuous parade of speakers and lectures sponsored by local universities and firms
Changing the subject, but as someone who moved to Memphis as a young adult this aspect of public culture is one of the major things I have found missing in Memphis. Rhodes does a pretty good job bringing interesting speakers, but one small college can’t be expected to shoulder the whole burden for a city of one million. Where is UM’s speaker program? UT’s? We don’t have a big wealthy private university like Nashville and St. Louis and even New Orleans do, but we’re lucky if we get a general-interest, well-known, public lecturer once every three or four years here.