Wednesday, June 28, 2006

College-Educated, Young Adults Consider "Place" First

This news release on some landmark research by CEOs For Cities seems especially pertinent today, with Memphis Mayor Willie W. Herenton saying that our city has to keep giving away tax freezes to counter the exodus of people from Memphis. We don't know how he connected those dots, except for the anecdotal evidence given to him by real estate developers on whom he seems to place such reliance for economic development advice. Hopefully, he'll actually ask some of the people on the move, because their responses could be instructive to him as the city's chief executive.

Surely, it goes without saying that people moving out of Memphis don't really have top of mind the tax freezes handed out by the IDB as a consideration in their move, except as a negative, since they cause the tax rate to climb and create a disincentive for anyone to stay inside the city limits. As a true believer in tax freezes, Mayor Herenton can double the number of them given out, but they'll have no effect on the movement of people from Memphis if nothing else changes. Rather than giving away money, city government needs to be making Memphis to create a better, safer, more competitive commmunity, because, as shown by this definitive research, the returns on these investments are crucial to the city's future.

Rather than concentrating on tax freezes, we can only hope that Mayor Herenton will take the time to read all of the reliable research about why people are moving and what he could be doing about it. All that the give-away program of the IDB does is give city government less to spend on basic services like police and law enforcement, and those are the things that have people voting with their feet. Meanwhile, we mindlessly dole out tax freezes as entitlements to low-wage employers who institutionalize our workforce development weaknesses. Now that's what our mayor should really be working to correct, and a first step is to reform and revamp the self-defeating PILOT program that is now in place.

Here's the release:

– Job opportunities are secondary, but cities must get the “basics” right –

Chicago -- Two-thirds of highly mobile 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees say that they will decide where they live first, then look for a job, according to a new survey commissioned by CEOs for Cities and conducted by The Segmentation Company, a division of marketing consultancy Yankelovich Inc.

The survey follows the December 2005 report by CEOs for Cities titled The Young and Restless in a Knowledge Economy, which warned urban leaders to attract and retain college-educated workers to compete in the knowledge economy. A city’s best chance to attract these workers, the report said, is to focus on the most mobile of the group, those 25 to 34 years old.

The survey marks the first time that the preferences of this highly coveted group have been quantified. The results are based on online surveys of 1,000 25- to 34-year-old college-educated men and women from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations conducted March 3-11, 2006.

“The December report confirmed that college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds are critical to the success of cities,” said Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders. “These new data tell us what they value and how they make decisions about where they choose to live.

“When you look at trends, such as the influence of women in the workforce, the fact that technology advances allow people to stay connected from virtually anywhere and that people are less loyal to companies, these numbers make perfect sense,” Coletta added. “This freedom has made place much more prominent.”

Key findings included:

• Two-thirds of college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds choose place before job, and this preference was true across all life stages and genders (male, female, single, married, with children, without children).

• Women place greater emphasis on the location decision than do men, although a majority of men also say they choose place before job.

• Basic quality of life issues (clean and attractive, can live the life I want to lead, safe streets and neighborhoods, can afford to buy a home, lots of parks and green space) ranked highest among attributes that young people looked for in a city.

• A place that feels welcoming, offers professional opportunities, has reasonable commute times, access to excellent schools, is a great place to raise children, is a place people are proud to say they live in were among attributes young people looked for in a city.

• Lifestyle attributes are also important to this demographic. They prefer places where they can connect with others and have meaningful social interactions; that are interesting and diverse; and are environmentally responsible.

• Young adults have a strong inclination to live downtown or close to downtown.

• Knowledge of city attributes is limited. When asked where they would like to live, respondents were quick to answer. But when asked why, their reasons were vague.

• Young adults rely most heavily on personal stories from friends and family to form their perceptions about a place. They also use the Internet and personal visits to shape their opinions.

“The good news for urban leaders is that these findings point to actions that they can take to make their cities more desirable to this demographic,” said Meredith Gilfeather, who directed the survey for Yankelovich.

Opportunities for urban leaders to attract and retain this desirable demographic include:

• Take care of the basics – Make sure your city is clean, green, safe and inviting. The basic functions of government such as trash collection and keeping parks maintained and litter off the streets will go a long way to bringing and keeping people. While it is not the only factor, a city that doesn’t take care of the basics will likely be dismissed or overlooked by this demographic.

• Make it easy for young people to reach their aspirations and goals – Young people are the most entrepreneurial in America, so foster their want for personal and professional success by, for instance, naming a talent czar who guides entrepreneurs through the process of starting a new business in the city. The aura of opportunity is very powerful.

• Highlight your downtown and close-in neighborhoods – Young people are 30 percent more likely than other Americans to live within three miles of a city’s center. This percentage has been increasing since 1980 (and dramatically since 1990) in each of the top 50 metro areas in the U.S.

• Develop a compelling narrative about your city. Because young people have only vague notions of what a city is like, this poses an opportunity for a city to define and brand itself and market that image to young people. But don’t promise something that can’t be delivered. And don’t settle for a tagline, logo or slogan to do the job.

• Work with local stakeholders to build a dynamic web presence that is appealing to tech and design-savvy young people and that accurately portrays your city’s narrative.

About CEOs for Cities
Dynamic cities drive America’s global economic competitiveness. That’s why CEOs for Cities was founded. It’s a network of mayors, corporate CEOs, university presidents, foundation officials and business and civic leaders from the nation’s leading cities. With research and its urban innovation consortium, CEOs for Cities provides its members with special insight into the challenges that matter to the success of cities and the new partnerships and thinking required to find innovative responses.

About Yankelovich Inc. and The Segmentation Company (TSC)
Yankelovich delivers measurable breakthroughs in marketing productivity for its clients. For more than 30 years, The Yankelovich MONITOR¨ has tracked and forecasted consumer value and lifestyle trends. Our Insights Integrationsm solutions directly link our key research findings on why people buy to databases of customers and prospects.

The Segmentation Company is a full-service custom research and consulting firm that helps clients precisely target their customers through segmentation and brand equity and positioning work. Yankelovich and TSC are headquartered in Chapel Hill, NC.


Anonymous said...

Memphis is doomed. Not many people would willingly choose to move to this thug-infested, dangerous, corrupt, city that's basically a slum in the middle of a 150 mile circumference cotton field. Herenton fiddles while Memphis crumbles, but HE's safe, he has bodyhuards.
The music is the only redeeming factor.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 32 year old who will be finishing a masters in December. I used to love Memphis, but not anymore. I know several Memphians my age who moved away. They all generally say the same thing. Memphis is screwed up(corrupt and poor) and that they will not come back. My out of town friends tell me and my remaining friends to leave as soon as possible. I feel guilty wanting to leave because I don't want to contribute to the decline of the city. I work in my community but the more active I become the greater the disillusionment. When asked about Memphis, I catch myself saying its a fun place to visit for three days (shake joints, clubs, and bars) but you don't want to live there. I still had an optimistic outlook for the city as late as 2001, but I left for a few years. Coming back into town and seeing the changes in Desoto, Fayette, and Tipton counties in addition to the decline of so many areas of the city I've become pessimistic.

You really want to do something to change the attitude of the city and county, forget downtown development, Airport cities, and expanding parks. Address corruption. Only perhaps two cities are (were) perceived more corrupt than Memphis, New Orleans and Washington D.C.. (Hell, Memphis exported its corruption to DC. Marion Berry was from here.) Corruption undermines civic pride and breeds apathy. Corruption permeates politics, the police, government, business and even the nonprofit sector. How many major projects in the city get done without questions of corruption? Jesus, a candidate who is running for sheriff is commonly refered to as the guy that pushed the lady off a bridge. A large percent of local politicians are ex-felons or under indictment. Its both Democrats and Republicans. The more I think about it the more I want to just run away from this shithole of a city.

sherman said...

Why would you consider staying, anonymous? We don't need any "guilty consciences" here. We need people willing to live in an environment where they control their own destiny. We need people who will stand up to a corrupt politician and say, "We want someone less corrupt to run our electricity company. We want someone who has no vested intersts in term limits to run our city. We want someone who can do something about crime and bad schools. We don't want you, status quo." You obviously aren't that person, anonymous. Hit the road, jack (or jill).

sherman said...

Apologies for my knee-jerk reaction to the anonymous post. I grow weary of people who don't take initiative in a city where the individual can make effective change. (I met two people tonight who are fed up with the way things are in Memphis and are running for office. My heros!) Anonymous sounds like a company looking for a reason to leave Memphis, but...they just might stay if given a PILOT....

Yes, there is corruption here. You aren't the 1st to figure that out. Even the FBI has. So, what's the answer?

Do something about it to affect the future positively or leave, if it is such a "shithole." Posting anonymously on an internet board does not begin to solve the issues you address.

Anonymous said...

Sherman, what do you know of what I do? I'm trying to express the ambivalence I have about living in Memphis. This blog focuses a great deal of energy talking about 24 to 34 year olds. I was just expressing a perspective from someone is in that demographic group. In addition, my opinion is fairly common and that's a problem for this city moving ahead. I don't want this city to be a shithole. If I didn't care I would have never come back or remained active in the community. So get off your moral high horse Sherman before you alienate the few Herenton hasn't already. Pompous twit.

Anonymous said...

I'm the first poster. I don't say those things lightly. I'm 42, 3kids, married, born here, lived elsewhere moved back 14 years ago and I still love this city. I've been involved in non-profits, have given a LOT of myself to this city, but I am sick of it and have become cynical, that of course, is my failing. I'll tell you one thing: even if I don't leave for another city, you can bet I'm sending my kids away for college with this advice: DON'T COME BACK HERE TO LIVE. I'm through defending Memphis to the criticisms of my friends in other parts of Tennessee; hell, they're RIGHT!
Unfortunately for Memphis, it appears the ever dissapating middle class will leave the city's problems to be solved by the poorer folks who are ill-equipped to solve them.
Herenton, a man whom I voted for 3 times, is about the same type of "leader" as GW. And that's not praise.

Smart City Consulting said...

Sherman, Mike posted a comment on the FedExForum discussion of last Friday that asked some questions about Memphis Music. If you have time to answer them, we'd love to hear what you think.

So, how do we harness the negative feelings and channel them into creating change? While we are not being argumentative with anyone who posted a comment, we do have a tendency in Memphis to think that our problems are harder, our governments are more wasteful, our city is more unmanageable, our issues are more divisive than anywhere else.

And yet, there's nothing that's mentioned about Memphis that isn't going on in other places. Atlanta, for example, has seen the indictment of about two dozen people in the past two years, and yet, its boom continues. So what can we do to make Memphis better?

The problems are serious. The challenges severe. But we can't cut and run, to borrow a much used phrase lately.

Let's talk about what we can constructively do to make this city work better and then go do it. Perhaps we are the eternal idealists, but you can't change what you don't care about.

LeftWingCracker said...

1) they're right, corruption HAS to be addressed. as an old hack myself who helped put some of these people in (but some of them are fighting the corruption as we speak) we have to get them out.

2) We have to bridge the economic and racial barriers in this region that keep us from working together.

3) We have to decide who we want to be as a city. I don't WANT to be Nashville or Dallas, we have an urban grit here that gives the city character.

4) last, but not least, we have to attack the street crime problem. Even the most civic minded urban dwellers get tired of being burgled, robbed, or threatened (see Paul Ryburn, who is doing something about it).

I don't want Memphis to look like Collierville, for heaven's sake, but I don't want it to look like Detroit, either.

Smart City Consulting said...

Leftwingcracker, Great start to a seriously needed conversation.