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Thoughts on Attracting and Retaining Millennials in Your Community

By Portage County Business Council
With the migration of talent from more rural communities to larger urban areas, many economic developers are struggling to attract and retain Millennials.

According to a study done by The White House, college-educated Millennials have moved into urban areas faster than their less-educated peers. The challenge for rural economic developers is that you can’t magically turn your town, city or region into a large metropolitan area. However, I think steps can be taken to try to make smaller communities more attractive to Millennials.

  1. Make sure there are opportunities for us. In 2020, Millennials will comprise half of the American workforce; however, manufacturing is the least likely career that Millennials want to move in to. If your city/region has a large manufacturing industry, it will be important to get kids interested at a young age in order to retain them in the community and hopefully recruit them to these companies. (Tune in for my next guest blog, “Millennials in the Workplace,” on our Manufacturing Blog channel, to hear some more of my ideas.)
  1. You can’t control the location of your community, the weather, or the cost of living, so instead, start with things you can change. This could be something like opening a walking/bike trail or revitalizing the downtown. Just make sure that your community always has its best foot forward, because you never know who is searching for a new place to live and is typing your city into Google or Yelp as we speak.
  1. According to a study done by the American Planning Association, 55% of Millennials surveyed are likely to move within the next 5 years, which means now is a perfect time to start promoting your community! If you are within driving distance of a larger city, make sure to publicize this, as well as any and all amenities that you have, because quality of life is key. Show us why your city is better than bigger cities, including things like cost of living, housing availability and the sense of community. These things are very important to us Millennials.

These big cities that are attracting Millennials like crazy right now are going to start to run out of room for all of us. Other communities are already realizing this and starting to find other ways to attract us, like some of the ones I mentioned earlier. In the end, though, Millennials want a sense of community and belonging just like anyone else, and if you can provide that, you are already one step ahead of a lot of communities.

Looking for creative ideas to attract and retain talent? Our “Talent Toolbox” contains case studies from regions who’ve successfully implemented out-of-the-box strategies to deal with their talent challenges. If you’re looking for a partner to help you develop a strategic talent attraction and retention plan for your region, contact Janet Ady at or 608-663-9218 for a free, no-obligation consultation to explore how Ady Advantage may be able to help you.