10 Innovative Ways to Attract Millennials to Your City

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Philadelphia is a city that has implemented a set of successful policies aimed at attracting and retaining talent in the last decade. During that same period, the city’s population grew by 100,000.

While Philadelphia certainly owes its success to a strong, diversified economy, its deliberate efforts to attract and retain talent are a major part of the story. (Getty Images)
While Philadelphia certainly owes its success to a strong, diversified economy, its deliberate efforts to attract and retain talent are a major part of the story. (Getty Images)

Talent attraction and retention is an issue that is immensely important to cities as they compete not only nationally, but globally, for the best, most productive workers. Employers, professional associations, and municipalities encounter talent-related matters constantly. As a talented workforce is essential to the vitality of a city, talent attraction and retention has economic, community-based and civic-level implications.

Philadelphia is a city that has implemented a set of successful policies aimed at attracting and retaining talent in the last decade. During that same period, the city’s population grew by 100,000. This migration has largely consisted of a younger, entry-level, and middle class population. As Millennials now comprise the largest share of the labor force, Philadelphia’s efforts will reap massive benefits for the local economy.

With support from the Knight Foundation, Equal Measure, a research firm for philanthropies, published a report titled “Key Insights into Talent Attraction and Retention Efforts in Philadelphia.” NLC participated in the study, which underscored the importance of cooperation among city institutions.

“City leaders can create a culture of authentic engagement and align existing, but often siloed, programs and partners to bolster the talent pipeline,” says NLC Research Director Christy McFarland.

The following are 10 methods for attracting Millennials listed in the report. Philadelphia used many of these to create a more open and collaborative space, reflective of its founding principle of brotherly love.

  1. Deliver an appealing reality: Rebranding campaigns do not cut it. Cities need things like density, shopping, culture, diversity, walkability, and good transit.
  1. Put values on display: Demonstrate how the city welcomes newcomers and new ideas. The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians is a great example.
  1. Keep in touch with former residents: Think of all those who left the region to attend college elsewhere. Find ways to have them return to the city.
  1. Create opportunities for civic involvement: Deliberately seek out the opinions of young people. Young Involved Philadelphia is a group that has been shaping the city for years.
  1. Use internships to connect with young adults.
  1. Survey young adults regularly.
  1. Celebrate young entrepreneurs and civic contributors.
  1. Communicate development plans to young adults.
  1. Promote your city: Place marketing works best when it is based on authentic stories that people are willing to tell about their cities.
  1. Promote a young adult lifestyle: Embrace an active nightlife that is not worried about scaring off soccer moms.

While Philadelphia certainly owes its success to a strong, diversified economy, its deliberate efforts to attract and retain talent are a major part of the story. In a survey, only 43 percent of college students said job opportunity was their number one driver of where they chose to live after graduation.

Philadelphia is fortunate to have been a highly desired, or “hot” city, these past few years. The city has attracted recent graduates with not only jobs, but brotherly love.

About the Author: Trevor Langan is the Research Associate for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities.