Since many young professionals tend to move to areas where there are other young professionals — and all the cultural attractions and lifestyles that come with them — places like Southside must compete for their attention.
“There is a sincere need to think around the corner,” said Rebecca Ryan from Next Generation Consulting to the more than 100 people at Business at Breakfast on Wednesday morning.
Ryan, a former professional basketball player and owner of a consulting firm, emphasized the importance of listening to young professional people in the region, providing them with a life outside of work and making room for them in community leadership. The breakfast series is sponsored by the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.
Elizabeth Creamer, who serves as the Virginia Director of Education and Workforce Development, also came to the event at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research to hear new ways to recruit talent on the statewide level.
The event is part of larger regional efforts to bring in a younger and educated population. On Tuesday night, Ryan spoke to a group of young professionals in Martinsville on their role in a rural community like Southside.
She asked everyone to imagine what the workforce will look like in 20 years. Today people in their 20s have a very different world than the one their parent’s were in — and she wasn’t just talking about using Twitter or DVDs.
The “millennial generation” — those born after 1980 — have entered the workforce plagued with unemployment, low wages and college debt that trumps their parents. Ryan said that most of them start off “50 yards behind” previous generations, and as a result, are waiting until later in life — often after age 30 — before they get a full-time career, a mortgage or a family.
Young professionals today also tend to be more racially diverse than ever before and rely heavily on social media and technology. Ryan said instead of being intimidated by these factors or ignoring them completely, it is important to embrace them for the long-term greater good.
In Virginia, the 65 and older population is the fastest growing age group and younger talent is eventually going to have to take the reins.
“People will leave a good job if they don’t have an emotional connection with where they live,” said Ryan.
Young people without the financial burdens of children or a mortgage will spend money where the entertainment is — and that is usually to places open after 5 p.m.
“Greensboro is taking all your money,” Ryan told the crowd.
She praised efforts by the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce for starting a young professionals organization and trying to have more entertainment for the region — anything from festivals, mixers and public events will help.
She said the area must do what they can to keep college educated people here. If Danville, where 16 percent of people have a bachelor’s degree or higher, could increase that number to 20 percent that would have a $1.3 million gain in per capita income, according to Ryan.
She challenged the crowd to take this into consideration when appointing board members and getting new ideas and asked everyone not to forget about the young professionals already in the region.
Xavier Crockett, 23, is an intern for the Danville Regional Foundation who hails from Atlanta, Ga. He joined other interns at breakfast and said he understood much of Ryan’s message.
“I thought it was credible, what she was saying,” said Crockett. “In Danville when you look at people who are making decisions it is the usual suspects. Hopefully they can scoot the chair over and make a little room for us.”
Joe Keiper, the director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, drove from Martinsville to hear Ryan speak. He said after listening he is thinking about putting a younger face of some of the boards he works with and wants to put more effort on trying to keep young professionals in the area.
“The idea of engaging young people is something we really need to do,” said Keiper. “Maybe we can do what Danville is doing with their young professionals.”
He said combining some of the events regionally would be a good idea as well.
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Next Generation Consulting
211 S. Paterson Street
Madison, WI 53703
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