To attract talent think what kind of place the emerging generation of professionals want to live

Communities need to start discussions about placemaking to attract talent for success in the "New Economy."

Attracting and retaining talented workers is critical to success in the global “New Economy.” However, because talented workers (aka knowledge workers, creatives, and creative workers) are mobile, in order to attract and retain them, a locality, region or state must have many “Quality Places” in which talented workers want to live, work, play and learn.

This issue is even more important because of the major demographic shift underway in America.  For more than 60 years, communities built places based on the “American dream”—a married couple with two kids and a house with a large yard in the suburbs. 

This made sense when half of U.S. households had children.  Today, 75 percent of households do not have children and the number of new households with children continues to fall. Delayed marriage and other social factors have played into this. 

Another key shift is the rise of the millennials. They are now the largest generation and an indicator for placemaking.   Their preferences for walkability and activity centers and lack of interest in driving draw them to communities with that cluster of amenities.  Recent market preference studies show a clear preference for mixed-use walkable places with options for social activity.

How does this impact people living in Michigan?  These dramatic demographic changes are leading to fundamental consumer preference shifts for different types of housing, transportation and lifestyle choices. They are also leading to major changes in land use patterns which will affect what types of placemaking initiatives are pursued in large and small cities, and suburbs.

For success in the New Economy, communities need to gain a common level of understanding of the changing economic, housing and demographic landscape.  Rather than playing catch up to other places, knowledge about the New Economy will enable communities to be proactive and shape their future.  

Michigan has numerous communities that are attractive to families, what it lacks are places with the level of walkability, housing choice, and activities that will draw millennials and retiring boomers.  Smaller cities and towns would do well to look at placemaking activities and projects in their downtowns and adjacent neighborhoods.  By doing this, communities can become more attractive to talented workers and others entering the housing market.  The goal is to help communities re-examine the importance of everyday settings and experiences that shape our lives – the downtowns, parks, plazas, main streets, neighborhoods and markets that influence where we live, work and play, and how we interact with each other.

For more information on how a community can begin this process and assistance in it contact a Michigan State University Extension or contact a Land Use educator for more information on these issues facing communities. 

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