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Amy Lynch

Generations Expert + Idea Warrior + Entrepreneur

Millennials Revive Rust Belt Cities

What are cool cities for Millennials? Denver, Austin, San Francisco and Nashville top the list of“it” cities for Millennials, but they are old news.

To find hot cities right now think Rust Belt. Millennials are revitalizing Pittsburg, St. Louis, Detroit, Columbus, Baltimore and Cleveland, cities once given up for dead. To imagine whats’ happening, picture an airline route map in a flight magazine in which all the lines curve up from the coasts and converge in the center.


Why the shift? As the futurist Rebecca Ryan notes, Millennials choose a lifestyle first, then a career. In fact, 75% of today’s 20-somethings say a cool city is more important than a good job. And heartland cities with affordable housing and low-cost startup environments offer a lifestyle most Millennials can’t afford in LA or NYC. This is a complete 180 for HR and recruitment. Sell the city first, the job second! 

What do Millennials look for? Communities with walkability, diversity, a vibrant arts and after-hours scene, a reasonable cost of living, and opportunities for multiple jobs and careers. They move, then find or create a job. This is why the city of Columbus places billboards in NYC and LA with Instagram images of dogs, parks, festivals, craft beer and friendly baristas—all in Columbus. And why South Dakota has done a hilarious ad about the air there. "You can breath in South Dakota." And why Wyoming is soliciting Millennials who work remotely to move to the state. It's about living, not about working. 

Millennials are a generation dedicated to a new American Dream—
a lifestyle they can love at a price they can afford. 

They are moving to places their parents would never have imagined—like Toledo and Des Moines. There, in urban centers or close-in suburbs, Millennials can start careers, start families, start businesses. They can build a life without going broke. An interesting tag-along to this migration is that a few years after a Millennial mass builds in a city, their Boomer parents follow. This happened recently in Nashville, my hometown.


This fits perfectly with recurring 80-to-100-year generational cycles. Generational studies reveal that a period of crisis always produces a pragmatic generation who basically work to live (like the Silents after WWII). That generation is followed by an idealistic generation who tend to live to work (Boomers). Next comes a skeptical generation who work in order to have a life (Gen X). The cycle is completed by a generation like Millennials who grow up in a time of crisis.  They focus on building a life more than building a career.  Driven by this generation cycle, cities decline and then gain new life. History is not predictable, but thanks to generational studies, it does arrive on schedule. Hello Toledo!

Many thanks to the totally cool Nancy Eisenbrandt and Alex Hughes of the Nashville Chamber, to Wendy Gramza and Jeff Schaaf of the Toledo Chamber, and to Mary Stagaman of the Cincinnati Chamber for your insight on this blog. May the demographics be always in your favor.


 Amy Lynch speaks from experience. While others talk about generational awareness, Amy’s clients apply her techniques and strategies in their businesses every day. Her high content programs are filled with memorable stories punctuated with a generous dose of humor. Her book, Generational Intelligence: How to Harness the Bang of Change is forthcoming in 2017. Contact Amy Here


Posted by Amy Lynch at 18:15
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