Attracting Young, Educated People to Small Towns

CEO’s for Cities has a recent report on Attracting the Young, College-educated to Cities. I l looked at the summary data (this is US data, not Canadian) from the perspective of a small town trying to attract this demographic (the new generation of knowledge workers), which is part of what our Commons is about. The report covers responses from 1,000 college-educated 25-34 olds.

“Two-thirds of college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds report that they will make the decision of where they live first, then look for a job within that area.” To be considered, small towns had better get on the mental maps of young people. In Sackville, we have a university where we can make a positive impression on a select group of young people.

Half of married people or those with children under 18 would definitely/probably consider a small town. Therefore small towns should focus on being family-friendly and consider what resources couples, parents, and children need.

In response to, “If you were to consider moving to a city, which of the following sources of information might you use to find out more about the city?”, 65% cited Go to local website. Towns need comprehensive, accurate websites, and I believe some two-way interaction such as blogs or social networking to connect real people with real needs; not just marketing hype.

The report shows a hierarchy of needs (à la Maslow) of this group:

  1. A clean and attractive, safe and green place to live the life I want to lead.
  2. A place that will allow me to grow professionally and personally, and raise a family
  3. I want an interesting and diverse place to live that has space for social interactions and is close to family.

I think that the major challenges for small towns are the second and third points. We have to show that it is possible to grow professionally. This requires a critical mass of professionals in the area (a subjective number, depending on individual needs) as well as an excellent networking and Internet connectivity infrastructure. We also have to diversify our population by attracting more immigrants from other regions and cultures. These are our challenges, if we want to be viable Internet age communities.

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