Part 1 of 2
By Jim Bleyer
Attracting Millennials to Tampa Bay has been at or near the top of the “to do” list of Tampa Bay’s movers and shakers for years.
Achieving that goal to any meaningful degree has remained elusive.
The reason? A failure to accurately define that generation and identify its priorities. Translation: The Tampa Bay establishment doesn’t really know who Millennials are, relying on social media, faux news, and the eternal bias that older generations harbor against the newest one to come of age.
The best advice to cities that are Jonesin’ for an influx of Millennials: get to know who they really are by casting aside myths and preconceptions.
It is well documented that Millennials are the most educated generation this country has even known as well as the most racially diverse. They are physically active but less interested in watching professional sports than previous generations. Millennials also face more headwinds since the Greatest Generation. Being the most educated has become a two-edged sword because of the skyrocketing costs of higher education and the student debt incurred.
Here’s more about Millennials: they comprise 25 percent of the population and 21 percent of the country’s discretionary spending. Almost 50 percent of them will make a purchase from a company if the purchase supports a cause they believe in. Millennials are heavily into social media and two-and-a-half times as likely to be an early adopter of technology than the rest of the population.
It’s no surprise that big cities pull out all the stops to attract this age group.
Tampa Bay Beat talked with five Millennials that reside in five large U. S. Cities. The subjects were chosen at random with the following requirements: aged between 21 and 34, a 3-2 split in gender either way, and a familiarity with Florida if not the Tampa Bay area.
Our first Millennial, a 30-year-old native Floridian who grew up in Lake Mary, graduated from one of the country’s top universities (out of state) and settled in Clearwater. Frustrated with failed attempts to break into the administrative end of academia, she relocated to Washington D.C. three years ago and immediately gained employment at Georgetown University.
Noting her options were much greater in a city with many institutions of higher learning, she added that Tampa Bay’s problem in attracting Millennials goes beyond the lack of job opportunities.
“The culture in Washington values education and hard work and has more of an intellectual bent than you would find In Florida. There it is more beach, beer, and football.”
A 31-year-old native of St. Paul, Minnesota who works for a financial conglomerate was far less familiar with Florida but visited St. Petersburg for an extended period. An avid outdoorsman, he found the weather oppressive, even in April. He looked at real estate but could not find anything compelling that would induce him to relocate.
“I found excellent employment in the area where I grew up and have the added bonus of having my family, my support system, close by. Nothing really stood out in Tampa Bay that motivated me to explore a move.”
A now 29-year-old woman from Chicago moved to Tampa five years ago because her parents retired here. With a marketing degree from a northern school, she spent a year-and-a-half in the Bay area.
“The job market in Tampa was not great,” she explained. “It was frustrating so I moved back to Chicago and got employed marketing for a law firm for just under six figures.”
Another native Chicagoan, a 32-year-old male, spent time in Tampa knowing the Bay area has a significant number of relocated Midwesterners among its residents. A college graduate, he was disappointed in not only the scarcity of job opportunities but also the age demographics.
“I would have liked to have found more people my age,” he said. “I moved to San Diego and have my own videography business. San Diego not only has professional opportunities but also a strong Millennial presence.”
Our fifth Millennial is a New Yorker and a native Brazilian who briefly resided in South Florida before moving to the Big Apple. She was a professional athlete and although she excelled at her profession, the injury risk became a barrier to her continuing.
In June, the 28-year-old will be getting her degree with a major in communications. She has interned at the United Nations and has a job waiting at News 12 in New York. Besides being in a broadcast journalism hub, she listed other reasons for New York’s appeal.
“Here you advance on your own merit, nothing is given to you. Sure I’ve developed good professional comtacts and I enjoy the fast pace….but diversity is celebrated here. The population is enlightened.”
So there it is: Washington D.C., St. Paul, Chicago, San Diego, and New York. They attract Millennials. Tampa Bay at present has barriers in luring the most desirable generation. None, except the weather, are insurmountable.
Our second part of this report will concentrate on false perceptions by the Tampa Bay establishment and what local business groups and politicians are doing wrong that prevents a great Millennial influx.