Attracting talent: The Millennial

Feb 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Regional News

Portrait of a happy young business people working on laptop discussingCities across the nation are vying to attract millennials. Surprisingly, one rural community in Eastern Idaho is home to one of the country’s largest groups of young talent – branding itself “Millennial City USA.” Over 81% of the 26,000 people living in Rexburg are under 30, and the median age is 22 – 15 years younger than the national average. The growth of 18 to 35-year-olds is projected to continue: the Idaho Department of Labor estimates the millennial population in Eastern Idaho will expand 26% by 2025, compared to less than 3% nationally.

What draws young people to this rural region? Many graduate from Brigham Young University Idaho (BYUI) and Idaho State University (ISU) to reside in the Eastern Idaho Innovation Corridor, home to the Idaho National Laboratory and companies including Melaleuca and Progrexion. Millennials also enjoy year-round outdoor recreational opportunities at nearby Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

To retain and grow this coveted population, economic development leaders have launched a multi-phase research effort.

“So much has been written about what urban millennials want, but this is the first time anyone has formally studied rural millennials to learn what drives them,” said Jan Rogers, president of the Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), which just completed a survey and focus group series with its millennial population.

Here are some initial findings:

  • Facebook is the #1 social media platform used by rural millennials, while Snapchat and Instagram are popular with urban millennials.
  • Rural millennials prefer to live in an open area close to an urban center, rather than in the middle of a city or town.
  • Rural millennials are more motivated by the type of work they’re doing than by pay or other incentives.
  • Networking with peers, friends and family connections are how rural millennials find jobs, rather than on websites like LinkedIn and Indeed.
  • Poor work culture is the number one reason that rural millennials leave a profession or a job.

According to Hope Morrow, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor, the region’s three fastest growing industries are in the areas of finance, science/technology and healthcare. The Idaho National Laboratory – the top nuclear national lab in the nation – is a major employer.

“With an abundance of outdoor recreation activities, education and career opportunities as well as a safe, family-friendly environment, Rexburg’s millennial population is flourishing — creating a unique opportunity for businesses and another incredible asset for the state of Idaho,” said Megan Ronk, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce.

The region’s low cost of living is also an incentive for millennials to raise families in Eastern Idaho. “Eastern Idaho has not only offered the professional opportunities that my wife and I need to make a good living, but it also offers the work-life balance that is important to us,” says millennial Mark Baker, who works as director of marketing for the Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot. “It’s not uncommon for us to wake up on a Saturday morning and say, ‘Let’s go explore Yellowstone today!’”

The opportunities for career growth and skyrocketing BYUI enrollment numbers point to a further rise in Eastern Idaho’s millennial population, and the region is changing to adapt to the influx. There are plans for investments in new retail shopping, restaurant space and condo living, along with new sports fields and venues to host shows and concerts. The Snake River Landing Convention Center is projected to begin construction this year.

“Rexburg is home to many young scholars who are passionate about living and working in this unique region,” says Jerry Merrill, Mayor of Rexburg, Idaho. “Our small town community appeals to a massive group of millennials because of their access to higher education, career opportunities, affordability and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. They feel welcome and excited to interact here,” he said.

In tandem with the “Millennial City USA” theme, REDI has launched a social media campaign to tell the story of Eastern Idaho’s attractions and lifestyle assets through the eyes of rural millennials. It can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

The link to a PowerPoint summary of REDI’s Millenials focus group study can be found here.

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