Young Professionals and Downtown are like PB&J

Like many iconic duos in our culture, young adults and downtown seem to go hand in hand. Twenty- and 30-somethings are known, at least stereotypically, to be more adventurous with real estate, to pioneer in the arts, and to enjoy a night life that best exists in an urban center. But, what really attracts young professionals to a downtown area?

I ran across the results from a study of its young professionals in Aiken, South Carolina, a town of about 29,000 residents and home to one of USC’s campuses. Among its leading factors for why YPs choose to live there, friendly people, short commute times, and an aesthetically pleasing environment are at the top of the list. Surprisingly, being a family-oriented community was also an important factor in attracting them to Aiken, while the area’s social opportunities and arts organizations were less of a priority.

A similar study in Wichita, Kansas, found that safety, a healthy local economy, and affordable housing were among the most important elements of a livable community. Like Aiken, Wichita’s study showed that arts and nightlife were only somewhat important as a measure of livability.

A national report by Next Generation Consulting ranked U.S. cities considered best fit for young professionals. At the top of the list were small towns, Fort Collins, Colorado and Charleston, South Carolina, mid-sized cities, Madison, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and large cities, San Francisco and Seattle.

But, where does that leave Waco, Texas? Well, it didn’t make the NGC rankings this time, but that doesn’t mean the city is devoid of young professionals. In fact, more than 450 members make up the city’s young professionals’ group, which meets regularly to network and socialize with like-minded individuals.

Waco is not like Aiken or Wichita, nor is it like the many cities in NGC’s list. So, what makes a 25-year-old single guy or girl move here? Where do they come from, how long do they stay, and why might they eventually leave? The curiosity is enough that I’ve approached the Board of Waco Young Professionals to find answers to these, and many other, questions. I’ll keep you posted…

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