Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting is the best that I’ve seen talk on what drives the Gen X generation. She was on the program with me at the Synergy Conference in Menomonie, WI (population 14,937), one of my agurbs®. The Synergy Conference is put on by a nine county regional ED group in western WI.
“These Gen Xers are free agents, who by age 32 will have had nine jobs on average. The males are waiting to age 27 to marry and the females to age 25. There are more Gen Xers who believe that they will see a UFO in their lifetime than who believe that they will ever get any money out of Social Security.” Ryan rolled off statistics such as that in addition to advice on how communities might make themselves more attractive to this newest demographic group.
“You’ve got three ways to grow your community. You can attract in transplants, who are coming for either love or money (marriage or a job); you can get back the boomerangers; or you can keep the homegrowns, with their deep bench of history on the area.” When Ryan asked for a show of hands the nine county region had about 1/3 of each group represented at the conference. “The extremes of this are Washington DC where everyone is a transplant to the deep South where virtually everyone is a homegrowner.”
Ryan has identified seven indexes of what constitutes a “cool community”, to set you up to be an attractive destination for the Gen Xers.
1. Vitality—Parks, trails and recreational areas. Nashville, TN has a bold vision of putting everyone within a ten minute walk of a recreational area.
2. Social Capital—How well do people play together? Diversified?
3. Cost of Lifestyle—Can I afford to live here?
4. After Hours—What’s there to do in town?
5. Around Town—How easy is it to get around town and out of town?
Western WI ranked a four or five out of ten on all of the indexes, slightly above the national average. Eights are the highest that they have ever scored a region. Interestingly, when each of the nine counties was scored individually, they didn’t score as high as the nine county region scored collectively, which again points out the importance of taking a more regional approach to the whole notion of economic development.