When you live in the greatest region in the greatest state in the greatest nation on earth you have a lot to brag about. Another recent accolade is Hampton Roads has become a destination where millennials want to live, work and play and they are showing up in record numbers.
According to a recent study generated for Time magazine, Hampton Roads saw a 16.4 percent increase in its millennial population from 2010 to 2015 – the highest increase in the nation. For young professionals who already call this region home, this comes as no surprise.
Over the last few years, The Hampton Roads Chamber has been working to create the conditions for businesses to succeed by acting as an impactful advocate, powerful economic partner and inspiring ignitor for the region. By creating a favorable business environment, the chamber has played a role in the efforts to develop a dynamic region that will attract bright young talent.
Destination points like Hilton Norfolk-The Main, Waterside District, the Virginia Beach Arena, the arts districts, Norfolk Premium Outlets and craft breweries by the dozen have cropped up and are drawing in crowds of young professionals. Continued efforts to recruit companies such as ADP that bring thousands of jobs to the area are providing opportunities for millennial transplants to set their roots in Hampton Roads.
Combining these economic and entertainment factors with our region’s natural assets like the coastline sets Hampton Roads apart as a place to not only make a living, but have a high quality of life.
With such a national recognition of the millennial population in Hampton Roads, it’s time to flip the “brain drain” narrative. While the momentum is high, we cannot rest on our achievements, but instead must capitalize on them to continue to close the gap in other challenging areas.
As Hampton Roads attracts millennial talent, our new concern should be keeping them.
The region is in a great position to build on the strengths of its existing economic foundation – tourism, defense and the Port of Virginia – to diversify its economy by focusing on fields like biotechnology, cybersecurity and unmanned systems. Investing in industries that will create good high-paying jobs will also help alleviate the living wage gap in Hampton Roads that makes it difficult for young professionals to set aside money for a down payment on a house after covering their rent and student loan payments each month.
As Hampton Roads continues to attract millennials, it must also focus on improving public education in order to retain those millennials as they settle down to have families. According to the PEW Research Center, millennials are the most educated generation to date and they will prioritize quality education for their own children.
At The Hampton Roads Chamber we believe young professionals should have an opportunity to be a part of creating the next millennial hub city. We have recognized the need to invest in the next generation of business and community leaders and we’re taking steps to embrace those millennials – not turn them away.
tHRive, the young professionals program of the chamber, is focused on fostering a strong community of young professionals who are engaged and invested in the future of our region. As part of the chamber’s strategic direction, we aim to be an inspiring ignitor for the region.
In the last two years, tHRive’s membership has grown from 15 to over 1,650 young professionals from all industries across the entire region. By facilitating opportunities for collaboration and change, tHRive empowers young professionals to capitalize on the momentum as they reinvent and shape the region.