American cities are engaged in a "hipness battle" intended to attract and retain young people, The New York Times reported last Friday.
Portland and Memphis are among cities that are investing in bike paths, revitalizing their downtowns, and even offering services like the "Entertainment Express" trolley that takes party goers from one bar to the next in Lansing, Michigan.
[T]he latest population trends have forced them to fight for college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds, a demographic group increasingly viewed as the key to an economic future.
Mobile but not flighty, fresh but technologically savvy, "the young and restless," as demographers call them, are at their most desirable age, particularly because their chances of relocating drop precipitously when they turn 35. Cities that do not attract them now will be hurting in a decade.
"It's a zero-sum game," said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, noting that one city's gain can only be another's loss. "These are rare and desirable people."
They are people who, demographers say, are likely to choose a location before finding a job. They like downtown living, public transportation and plenty of entertainment options. They view diversity and tolerance as marks of sophistication.
Like Dofasco has long advertised, decision-makers in these cities are realizing that their strength is people, especially young people. They're realizing that what attracts young people are not expressways or strip plazas, but vibrant downtowns with fast and efficient public transit and bike paths, plenty of entertainment options, and an atmosphere that promotes creativity and diversity.
Hamilton already attracts many young people who come here for post-secondary education, primarily at McMaster University and Mohawk College. The key is retaining these people when they graduate from school.
I speak from experience when I say that we're doing a terrible job at that: I made friends with a lot of McMaster students when I worked in Westdale in my late teens and early twenties, and not a single one of them remains in Hamilton.
Hamilton took a step towards a better environment when it embarked on a tree-planting program. Some enlightened person or people at City Hall realized that the benefit of investing in these young trees would be felt for years to come.
It's time City Hall took the next step and started taking steps to plant and nurture young people in this city.
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