“Stop Talking About Us, and Start Talking To Us”

ARTICLE | Jun 1, 2016

That’s the resounding message from Manatee County millennials. This group of 18-35 year olds are chomping at the bit to have their turn to influence Manatee County and have been in the local news for the past few months tackling issues of affordable workforce housing.

Who Are They

Born between 1980 and 2000, this generation of young adults grew up with technology. 87% of online adults in the US age 18 to 29 use Facebook, with 53% on Instagram, 37% on Twitter and 34% on Pinterest. More than 85% of millennials in the US own smartphones and touch their smartphone more than 45 times a day.

One-third of older millennials (ages 26 to 33) have earned at least a four year college degree, making them the best-educated group of young adults in US history and consequently the ones saddled with more debt. They’re more diverse even within their own generational cohort. Millennials also go by Generation Y, Global generation, Echo Boomers, net generation, and baby boomlets to name a few.

There are about 79 million millennials in the U.S., versus the 48 million Generation Xers. This year, the millennial generation is projected to surpass the Baby Boomer generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau. This cohort have been slower to marry and move out on their own, and have shown different attitudes to ownership that have helped spawn what’s being called a “sharing economy.”

When it comes to being informed on news and public issues, a majority — 56% — of Americans considered that very important in 1984; now only 37% think so. Young adults are even less interested in keeping up. Despite unprecedented access to news and information, 28% feel no obligation to stay informed.

This generation is typically more civic-minded and not necessarily politically engaged. “We’re less interested in big government vs. small government than we are in better government—making our democratic systems more inclusive and more responsive,” wrote the authors of Government By and For Millennials, a 2013 report from the Roosevelt Institute. “Young people still care about our country,” said Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe last year. “But we will likely see more volunteerism than voting…”

Manatee County in the eyes of Millennials

It’s no secret that Manatee County is losing its millennial population. In 2013, the millennial population in the city of Bradenton was 9,873. In Manatee County (including cities within) there are a little less than 24,000 millennials.

Many parents that send their kids off to college don’t throw a welcome back party because their children stay in the place where they graduated from or move to another city. But why?

“There’s more for a person my age to do.” “Affordable living.” “More people my age.” “Job opportunities and better pay.” “Easy to move about the city.”

Bradenton is a great place to settle down, start a family, and to retire to. But as a young adult – without a spouse and kids – it can be kind of bland.

When you boil these statements down to the core, Manatee County is lacking in entertainment, nightlife, housing, well-paying jobs, and multi-modal transportation. Thankfully, Manatee County government has recognized this and have begun to make strides in addressing the issues.

Through employees within Manatee County Government completing research, delivering presentations, and offering recommendations, they have gotten the word out about how essential affordable workforce housing is to attracting and retaining the millennial population. The County is also looking to revamp their land use guides to provide options for mixed use property. This will blend residential and commercial zones together to bring density to areas which can mitigate traffic concerns and encourage other means of transportation.

With the revision in policy, it’s imperative that millennials come out to public hearings, commissioner meetings, forums and the like to provide their input. People are talking about building for the future, but they’re not asking the ones who are set to inherit it- Millennials and Generation Z (individuals born after 2000).

Why is this Generation Important?

Two words: workforce shortage. Take for example, Manatee County government, one of the largest employers in Manatee County. In the next few years, Manatee County could be a millennial haven as far as jobs are concerned. Millennials and Generation Xers have to make up close to 50% of the workforce by 2021 since 75% of the county’s workforce will be retiring in the next 5 years in addition to general turnover rates. This is just one organization.

Think of all the hundreds of businesses in the county that will be in the same predicament. It’s important that we as a community begin to think about who will be the next ones to fill those jobs, especially when it concerns some of our top industries such as healthcare, tourism & hospitality, agriculture, and construction.

Without the workforce in place to sustain the current businesses located in the county, it would be extremely hard to attract new business to the area without that established workforce. In addition to businesses in the area, where will our local community leaders come from? Who is going to continue the legacies and good work of our current community leaders and movers and shakers? It’s important for all organizations – and neighborhoods – to begin to think about leadership succession and to begin training them now.

What’s Being Done in Manatee County?

Manatee County government has created the Manatee Millennial Movement (M3). Birthed from the need to get young folks involved in county decisions, this group of county employees seeks to educate millennials and give them opportunities to put in their two cents on how the county should develop in the future. This group was the masterminds behind the #iSeeManatee event which brought together businesses and residences from the south County area along with local college students to brainstorm how to transform the area into a “go-to” place.

In the middle of planning for #iSeeManatee, M3 was actively researching the barriers to affordable workforce housing in Manatee County. Through a series of presentations, discussions, and forums with various groups and stakeholders, they delivered a summary on the housing problem in Manatee County and provided solutions to rectify the issues. Recommendations included forming a committee made up of interested stakeholders who would actively work on policy to encourage workforce housing and redevelopment in western Manatee County, adopt land use regulations that make it easier to redevelop rather than build new property out east, and offer redevelopment incentives. Realizing that jobs and housing are closely linked, M3 is now monitoring their housing recommendations and have started to work with local businesses. Specifically within Manatee County government, the group has been looking at best practices, internships, and revisiting job descriptions.

Transforming Local Government Conference

The Manatee Millennial Movement Design Team will be conducting a workshop on how to get Millennials engaged in government at the Transforming Local Government (TLG) conference held in St. Paul, Minnesota June 15-17. Attendees at this workshop will walk away with a blueprint on how to involve their local millennial population as well as hear about some best practices, challenges, and how to get started.

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