I was adding some thoughts on another site and the response became wordy enough to represent a blog post, so here it is. The discussion was about an effort to attract young professionals in a community and what that might mean for everyone else. To me, it only means good things. The reason is that “young professionals” isn’t really all just about young professionals. In many ways, it is a proxy for a whole bunch of different things in a community that, when taken together, add up to a place that is either more likely to be advancing or more likely to be declining in coming years, based on the factors in play.
Because some of these factors can be influenced, it’s important for communities to learn about them and take stock of where they are. A community that is attractive to this group tends to have an array of entertainment options, educational opportunities, employment opportunities, housing options, recreational facilities, infrastructure, diversity and cultural assets. It often has an “attitude” to go along with it, in terms of proactive leadership. In short, it is a collection of attractive attributes.
It doesn’t mean that a place that is more attractive to this group is likely to be less attractive to others. In fact, the contrary is true because diversity is frequently cited. Communities that are attractive to young professionals also tend to be especially attractive to women, minorities, gays and many others of all ages. (Think: we can stereotype the typical Starbucks customer, but I guarantee you that they would be far less successful if those were the only people going there. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily match up with who you are likely to see there at any given moment – and nobody is any less of a human being if they never go at all.)
There is a lot of study behind the discussions of “young professionals” and “cool cities” – both of which seem like fairly lame terms for some fairly significant trends that can and do impact significantly on comparative success or failure in the area of having a vibrant economy. Richard Florida’s work is often cited and it’s a great start, but it is far from the only thing to take a look at. What’s important is for people to get past those imperfect terms and the individual, disparate factors to see what is really at work on the whole. It’s not all theory. There are many case studies and plenty of data to support the points being made.
And if you want to see the discussion that I was responding to, it’s here: