One of the hottest topics in economic development circles is the competition between cities for tech-savvy millennials, the generation that was born in a stretch from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. Attracting more young professionals would add new social vibrancy to a community, while setting the tone for growth.
A study, released in January, showed Bradenton faces a steep challenge in expanding this key demographic. Out of 93 Florida cities analyzed and ranked in the NerdWallet report, Bradenton landed at No. 42. The credit card promoter's list of the "Best Cities for Millennial Job Seekers in Florida" put St. Petersburg first and Tampa third. Sarasota came in at No. 31 followed by Venice at 36.
NerdWallet analyzed four key factors that this demographic values: number of jobs, salaries, rent and the existing population of millennials.
Realize Bradenton and the chamber are not strangers to these major magnets for millennials. Realize Bradenton has been at the forefront in strategic positioning for several years. The Manatee Chamber of Commerce announced another initiative last week that will combine with already established efforts.
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NerdWallet put the millennial population in Bradenton at 9,873. While fewer were found in Sarasota -- 9,632 -- other factors increased the city's overall score. Population figures, from ages 20-24 and 25-34, come from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey.
Overall, though, NerdWallet noted that Florida has begun 2015 with signs of a healthy job market for millenials -- with one being an increase in online job openings over the last year.
There's no quick success in this endeavor; this is more like a marathon than a dash. The variety of public-private efforts in Manatee County bring encouragement about a winning effort.
The blueprint for building the millennial population is well known: They desire a community with affordable housing where they can live, work and play near an urban center that is walkable and bikeable with easy access to public transportation. They also want to reside among and connect with their peers.
Plus, they want a lively social scene, a big part of Realize Bradenton's mission: creative place-making through the promotion of the arts, heritage and sports as well as staging special events (like the Bradenton Blues Festival, a huge hit).
The nonprofit organization is one of the dozens of finalists for a portion of $5 million from the James K. Knight Foundation's Cities Challenge. The Bradenton project in the contest, "ReuseReCONNECT," designed to attract milleninals by experimenting with fresh concepts for outdoor and vacant spaces that would boost a community's liveliness.
Realize Bradenton is conducting community forums to discuss how to attract and keep millennials here, and is seeking to establish a millennials leadership development program.
That could serve as a pipeline into the Chamber of Commerce's 40-and-under Manatee Young Professionals organization. When Jonathan Fleece assumed chairmanship of the chamber last week, he set a new goal: serving the needs of millenial workers, and encouraging more members of the Manatee Young Professionals to rise in the leadership ranks in the community and chamber.
Meanwhile, the chamber will encourage developers and builders to supply housing desired by millennials since that market is not being served.
Manatee County commissioners got that message last week during a presentation that pointed out the current land development code erects roadblocks to millennial housing. That code is currently being rewritten, and the opportunity exists to erase impediments.
Communities ignore millennials at their own peril. Some 77 million strong, this demographic will soon dominate the country as baby boomers bow out of the workforce. Manatee County is moving in the right direction with a multi-pronged strategy aimed at attracting millennials.