Millennials Key to 'Start Up' New Economy

With the advances in technology over the past decade, the opportunity to attract and keep young talent has been more competitive than ever. The globalization of the world and the proliferation of new technologies have allowed cities and businesses to compete on a global scale in ways previously unseen; allowing younger generations to make decisions about their career trajectory based on where they'd like to live, instead of where they'd like to work.

These tech-centered developments have helped to create a new economy, where firms incorporate research and commercialization; tech startups are viable job creators; and where internet based retail, support services, information, and apps/security ventures are all on the table for driving major economic development.

And no longer do these types of businesses necessarily need to be located in industry clusters like Silicon Valley. Choosing to locate in areas without the extremely high cost of living of other traditional tech hubs, can offer a huge benefit for new businesses, as long as they have access to the talent they need to continue to build innovative and adaptive companies. This has opened the door for many cities, not traditionally seen as "tech-savvy," or "smart," to create an atmosphere that's friendly to entrepreneurs seeking to start their own ventures.

Recently, the social media network WalletHub ranked Tallahassee as the best place to start a business in the state of Florida. This study focused on 13 metrics within 2 distinct categories; Access to Resources (including human capital) and Business Environment. Though I am proud that Tallahassee was designated with this honor, I think this study reveals something very interesting about the changing landscape of economic vitality for any community.

Though Millennials have been pegged by many as a lazy, unproductive generation (a demographic group described as the "Me, Me, Me Generation,") I think it is becoming clear that this stereotype is patently false as the economy roars back from the Great Recession. What instead seems true is that they are hard-working, have a naturally entrepreneurial spirit, and can be great hires for business they believe in. This generation, which, very recently, became the largest cohort of American workers, also contributes significantly to the U.S. economy in spite of being saddled by student loan debt, stagnant wages, and a lackluster political system.

We are seeing these truths play out for our own City, where over a third of our population is housed in three institutions of higher education. Every year hundreds of sharp young minds graduate from our education system; and for many of them, the opportunity to start their own business is a chief goal. In fact, small businesses are helping to drive our economy, as almost 3/4 of all enterprises in our area consist of 1-9 people.

That is why our community has attempted to attract and support the retention of these folks, through quality of life improvements, and direct investment in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. For a government town, with relatively little dynamism in industries or wages, building a new economy for Tallahassee and many other communities around the country will mean continuing to leverage our intellectual capital and talent for new ideas and opportunities.

I have seen first-hand how other cities have also undertaken this endeavor; positioning themselves to help Millennial entrepreneurs through the creation of a nexus between community activities, modern work spaces, talent congregation, business incubators, and other enablers of firm growth. All over the country, in cities like Nashville, Chattanooga, and the research triangle in North Carolina, communities are creating similar atmospheres, and have quickly become hubs for tech-based, innovative firms.

One paragon is Boulder, Colorado, where the entire community seems to embrace the idea of creating a startup-friendly ecosystem, aimed at retaining promising talent. Companies like Galvanize and Techstars help leverage venture capital to support new companies with high-growth potential, and the University of Colorado has even created a student-run business accelerator of its own. The Charleston Digital Corridor is another prime example of how a local community can work together to create an all-inclusive landscape that is culturally vibrant, economically robust, and entrepreneurially-oriented; all things essential for attracting, engaging, and retaining young talent that contribute so heavily to the knowledge economy.

As there are plenty of avenues for engaging and supporting Millennials, one thing is clear; they are equally crucial to the future of our economies at the national and local level. The ability to earn their trust and enable them to invest in fresh ideas will lead to commandeering a generation who are eager to startup a new economy in the places they choose to call home.

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