Attracting Young Professionals to Madison County
By Noel Marquis
They are all around us. Well-informed and tech savvy, they are rapidly dominating the workplace and changing the direction of the market economy. They are millennials, and they are seeking cities that suit their creative and fast-paced lifestyles in which to work and play.
Millennials are defined as those born between 1980 and the early 2000s, and many of them are now reaching adulthood. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials constitute the largest group of people in America since the baby boomer generation.
Cities across the U.S. are striving to attract these millennials, adjusting to fit the young adult’s vision of the perfect hometown. More millennials means more homebuyers and bustling, thriving cities. Surprisingly, New York City and Boston are not the only cities successfully drawing in millennials; midwestern Columbus, Ohio, and Bloomington, Indiana, are gaining an influx of young people as well.
Being home to Anderson University, Madison County certainly has the potential to keep millennials in the local area. However, many graduates decide to leave Anderson after graduation and seek jobs and homes in other cities. This trend begs the question: What are millennials looking for in a potential hometown?
Apparently, entertainment is a major plus for recent graduates.
“I’d love to live in a city with variety--unique shops and restaurants,” said Ellyana Blue, a marketing major currently enrolled at Anderson University. Blue hopes to pursue a career in advertising and plans to reside in a city booming with business and marketing opportunities, much like her favorite travel destination, Chicago. “An urban feel with a downtown shopping district, places to go on a Saturday night out on the town. Anderson just doesn’t have the entertainment value I’m looking for--or the aesthetic appeal.”
This craving for a visually interesting, creative and exciting atmosphere is common among AU students. Jake Mills, a social studies education major, echoed Blue’s desire for a variety of entertainment venues. “I don’t particularly want to live in a city. I would like to live close to a place with lots of places to shop, though,” said Mills. “It’s really unfortunate that the Anderson Target closed. It would be nice if Anderson had a bigger mall and more stores to choose from. You can’t always find what you’re looking for at Wal-Mart or the dollar store.”
Cities successfully attracting millennials, such as Bloomington, Indiana, are taking this desire for entertainment and running with it. In addition to boasting shops featuring anything ranging from fine art to college T-shirts, Bloomington is home to live music and the popular Lotus World Music and Arts Festival every fall. The “always-on” personalities of millennials are called to places that promise to keep them active with spontaneous events and activities, and feel restrained in cities that fail to deliver constant and varied entertainment. However, a purely “fun” city without job opportunities will not appeal to the career-driven side of millennials.
According to a 2014 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, more millennials are seeking college degrees than any previous generation of young adults. Predictably, these college graduates want to live in cities that will offer opportunities for them to make use of these degrees. Erin Holloron, a Biology major at Anderson University, dreams of becoming a genetic counselor. “I don’t want to live in a city, per-say,” said Holloron concerning a potential future place of living, “but I would like to live in close proximity to a hospital.” Holloron traveled cross-country to Indiana from Massachusetts to attend college, and has been impressed by the hospitality and general atmosphere of Anderson. “There really is a lot of potential here for growth,” Holloron said, “but I suggest trying to make the job market in Anderson more diverse. For example, it doesn’t have the best scientific or medical advances. It isn’t very career-focused for Biology and other science-related majors, so I probably won’t stay here once I graduate.”
Finance major Morgan Schroeder agrees with Holloron’s concerns. “Generally, I think people consider Anderson an affordable place to live, but not an ideal place to work. Many people who live here commute to Indy to find jobs because it’s less expensive to live in a place like Anderson.” However, Schroeder also sees potential for an improved job market in Madison County. “I would love to see the city draw in more diverse businesses, and I think we could do that by being more passionate about Anderson. Staying positive about what Anderson can offer could convince people to stay and work here.”
Columbus, Ohio is just one example of a city that has adopted this optimistic attitude. The city recently launched a campaign focused on shedding light on its most impressive aspects, complete with signboards in major cities and a website decorated with blog posts targeted at young professionals. Many other cities have taken similar approaches to attracting millennials.
The Council of Economic Advisors report points out that millennials are currently more interested in careers based in humanities and social sciences than previous generations. This data indicates that many millennials will be seeking cities with job opportunities in the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, and anthropology. Brittany Hankins, a social work major at AU who is considering entering the counseling field, wants to live in a city that shares her passion for helping those in need. “I’d like to see Anderson provide more resources for ‘the least of these,’” Hankins said. “Non-government places that help the impoverished, the mentally ill, the hurting and the sick. There’s not a whole lot that isn’t government-oriented here.”
Psychology major and Christian ministries minor Mitchell Stacy also believes that Madison County could benefit from more resources for the public, but also thinks that Anderson has excelled in providing a wide selection of churches. However, he harbors concerns about safety and the city’s job opportunities. “I haven’t experienced it first hand, but I have been told and heard that there is some poverty in the area, especially with the plant that closed down a few years ago,” Stacy said. “I’ve heard from family members before I came to AU that Anderson used to be a very ‘booming’ area, but since the company left it’s died out and that people have been left jobless, which has worsened the poverty. That would be one of my bigger concerns with moving here—stereotypically, with communities that are more impoverished, crime rates go up—I’m not sure I’d be completely comfortable with its safety.”
High crime rates do tend to repel young professionals. Of the Anderson University students asked to comment on what they are looking for in a city, all mentioned a safe community as being one of their top priorities.
Certainly, Anderson University students feel that Madison County could be improved in a number of ways, but the fact that they see potential for growth in the area is significant. Young professionals are attracted to effort. Simply shedding light on a new event or small business is a step toward improvement. Making it a point to express passion and pride in Anderson and the surrounding area will work to draw in and keep millennials. The key is positivity and openness to the possibility of growth.
About the Author: Noel Marquis is from Crawfordsville, Indiana and is currently majoring in English and Journalism at Anderson University. She has a passion for writing and hopes to work in the book publishing industry after graduation and perhaps publish a few books of her own.