For the past four years I've been invited to tour over 300 towns in 44 states, a privilege that I've treasured in seeing this great country of ours. Here are the trends that I've seen from my journeys that will grow in importance in 2008 and beyond.
1. Millennials-This generation, ages 10 to 27, dwarfs the Baby Boomers in size. These young people are going to be the most entrepreneurial in the history of the USA. I'm finding incredible examples of what these young people are already doing. You need to be recruiting and retaining the Millennials.
2. Retirement as Strategy-The oldest Baby Boomer turned 60 in 2006. Several communities are actively recruiting young retirees to them. These young retirees aren't going to be passive, they are going to be starting new businesses, volunteering and transforming the communities that are able to attract them.
3. Education-This isn't Kansas, Toto! The jobs of the 21st Century are increasingly going to go to the well educated. Towns that have world class primary and secondary schools are going to be the winners. Entrepreneurial education is going to increasingly be pushed down to Kindergarten. Community Colleges will be the key to the constant retraining of the work force due to the rapid changes taking place in our economy.
4. Promises-It started with Kalamazoo, MI which promised to pay the college education for anyone who attended its grade and high schools. Newton, IA, and El Dorado, AR have followed suit. Several others are looking to follow. Huge driver of where the Gen Xers and Millennials are going to decide to raise their families. Employers will follow.
5. Water, Water, Water-You can't have enough of it. Boomers are going to want to live on it, the west is starting to fight over it and those that have control of it will rule.
6. New Urbanization-Downtowns are hot! Boomers and young professionals don't want to drive for everything. The old walkable neighborhood is back.
7. Enviropreneurs-Green is increasingly growing in importance. Many local entrepreneurs are investing everything to get in on the front edge of this trend.
8. Niche Ag-Farmers are increasingly diversifying from a dependence upon traditional commodity crops to new niche products. Local food production is also driving this trend as is the growing interest in all things organic.
9. Premiumization-It started with coffee but has been embraced in many other products like honey, chocolate, vodka, cheese, breweries and others.
10. Birds Beating Birdies-The fastest growing spectator sport in the USA is bird watching. Geo- caching, biking, hiking and extreme water sports are also growing in importance. Golf will still be important for some, but won't be as dominant as in the 90s.