Cities work to appeal to younger generation

LAWRENCEVILLE -- As Joe Allen kicked off a session of Friday's Partnership Gwinnett summit, he quoted a statistic that three out of four young professionals see living in a "cool city" as more important than a good job in deciding where to live.

So instead of looking to business leaders on how to attract the young labor market, Allen began a discussion with city officials.

"The next generation is following their heart," said Allen, executive director of the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District. "Our generation followed the job. ... (Millenials) are a little more fickle about where they live and work."

With the summit focused on bridging the generation gap, leaders in Duluth, Snellville and Suwanee talked about their role in the local economy by drawing young professionals.

For Eric Van Otteren, Snellville's economic development director, that has meant empowering young people to create their own jobs.

Van Otteren has worked with Brookwood and South Gwinnett high schools to create entrepreneurship programs that have created 24 companies and twice that many jobs. It's a concept that had a local school board member asking about how to create a curriculum for the entire system.

Suwanee community and economic development manager Denise Brinson said her 15-year-old daughter recently told her mother she would not live in a neighborhood like her current one when she is older.

While the subdivision has 11 miles of walking trails, it doesn't connect to the girl's hangout, and those are the kind of connections young people are looking for these days, Brinson said.

Luckily, Brinson said, Suwanee's leadership has embraced a new way of life above the old suburban landscape.

"If we catered to our bubbles, we would have 50 football fields around our city," she said, talking about opening up to ideas like the city center filled with concerts and activities like a beer festival, which drew complaints from conservative folks but appealed to young adults.

"When I was 20, the last place I wanted to move was a 'great place to raise a family,'" Brinson said of the title given to Suwanee in a Kiplinger ranking. "We love that (No. 3 ranking) but it's not our slogan."

Brinson said the values of the younger generation are echoed in the desires of Councilman Dick Goodman, a 70-year-old retiree who rides a bicycle to City Hall and wants a fun place to get involved. "We're evolving," she said.

In Duluth, leaders have also looked at ways to open the city to diverse populations, both in ethnicity and age.

Mayor Nancy Harris talked about recent efforts at "place-making" to add attractions like a concert venue and fine restaurants to the downtown area.

Plus, the city's efforts at creating a public art project and commission builds its reputation as open and authentic, she said.

"We are working on our retro charm," she said, adding that a culture of outdoors is also growing to embrace the younger generation.

While leaders are focusing on appealing to the younger generation, they noted some challenges, like the lack of a major transit system for people who want to live car-free.

But they are doing their best to speak the language of their young residents, embracing Facebook, Twitter and other technology to get them engaged, the panelists said.

"This is the Twitter generation. If you can't reach them in 160 characters, they aren't interested," Van Otteren said, showing his age, since Twitter no more than 140 characters. "Kids today are moving at a rate and pace far above what we are."


kevin 2 years, 9 months ago

Another political group trying to brainwash our young folks. I'd like to see their list of donors. Won't they publish this for all folks to see? I guess they are very scared to publish this for folks to see. There might be many repercussions over it!


NewsReader 2 years, 9 months ago

Here is something to ponder. Every generation spends their entire youth seeking ways to get away from that which they grew up with. Then they spend the rest of their life trying to get back there. Suburbia exists solely for those that want to escape Urbia. But as Urbia continues to encroach upon Suburbia, it moves farther and farther out. And the reason it moves farther and farther out is because people want to escape Urbia and everything that comes with it. LOL, go look at crime stats for Gwinnett versus Fulton and Dekalb. It paints a very telling picture. Spare me the racist discussion, as it has little to do with race and a whole lot to do with quality of life. People want a better quality of life for their children. It becomes impoverished because those with the means tire of the crap, and pack up their toys and go elsewhere.
I really love that opening paragraph where “…three out of four young professionals see living in a ‘cool city’ as more important than a good job in deciding where to live…” Hahaha, good luck with that, kids! It is no wonder we have the epitome of stupidity “ruling” from the Whitehouse for his loyal entitlement driven, hypocritical, irresponsible followers. You just can’t fix stupid!


JimmyOrr 2 years, 9 months ago

Joe, what you are emphasizing is the "live, work, play" community concept. It's like I told Phil Boyd (Director, Gwinnett Transit) in one of our I-85 Alternatives Analysis Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) meetings about the aforementioned concept when I asked him how old he was and he replied "62." I told Phil he would not live long enough to see this concept become a reality. We moved away from the so called sustainable community concept shortly after WWII and big time after the Korean War. You and Chuck (Executive Director Gwinnett Village CID) were at the meeting I mentioned. Our PAC study, the way I see it, is predicated on providing the most effective public transit system to relieve the traffic congestion on the I-85 North Corridor. In my opinion, what Akins has come up with thus far, all roads lead to "Rome" with "Rome" being downtown Atlanta. Whether our PAC comes up with a roller-blade pathway or Chuck and Joe's "choo choo to alleviate traffic in this corridor, as I state above, the objective is to move folks South toward downtown Atlanta. What are your plans to make Gwinnett Place CID a viable live, work, play community. Where would your funding come from? What would be the source of good paying jobs? Same (jobs) would have to be high tech for as sure as Hades is redhot, I don't foresee your CID offering any jobs via way of light or heavy industrial manufacturing facilities. From my studies of the live, work, play concept it seems that same assumes the jobs would all be white collar. In other words, the live, work, play community would be Camelot where everyone around the round table would be a Knight and there would be no jobs for the Warriors, ie, the skiled technicians, responsible for making the wheels of our highley complex technical society turn. I suppose the Warriors could live and play in your community but would have to use their personal vehicles to drive to their jobs elsewhere.


R 2 years, 9 months ago

So you want to increase your visibility to young professionals and be deemed a cool place to live? An admirable goal, so let’s start by realizing most of these types have been fully versed in the ways of “selfish” consensus building 301 as they went through college.

What does this mean and how does it translate into the real world we live in?

For starters it means stop the phony surveys that are rigged to steer participants to the conclusion or the way YOU want them to think, any worth their wage realize your lame attempts midstream and laugh at your lack of willingness to actually hear them…

Case in point, the recent Gwinnett Place CID survey for transportation options – it had only one real path available, regardless of your selection and that (SURPIZE) backed the development choices that the Chamber championed. This kind of foolishness will NOT get you the moniker that you want, BUT it will get a moniker for sure…


Sign in to comment