Millennials. We hear a lot about them these days and for good reason. According to a recent report released from the Pew Research Foundation, Millennials (age 18-34) surpassed Baby Boomers (age 51-69) in 2016 as the largest living generation in the United States with a total population of 75.4 million people.
You may have heard that the Millennial generation was flocking to the cities wanting the convenience of city living. But the pendulum is now beginning to swing back to the suburbs. It seems that as they get married and start “settling down” Millennials want to trade the urban lifestyle they once so readily embraced for a more balanced quality of life in the suburbs. Most adults of this generation have fond memories of family life in smaller towns and cities and want their own children to have that same experience. They also want to keep the conveniences they have come to enjoy living in urban areas. In short, Millennials are looking for the best of both worlds. So what does this mean for McHenry County? It means opportunity!
McHenry County can take advantage of the desire of millennials to live in Chicago style ‘neighborhoods’ ...by boasting about Woodstock, Crystal Lake, McHenry, Algonquin, any of our 30 unique municipalities. Each of these “neighborhoods’ have the coffee shops, restaurants, community activities desired by millennials as they create their family and find their work life balance.
Back in 2014, Forbes identified Chicago as the 4th best city for Millennials. At that time, it estimated 14% of Chicago’s population was 25-34. This means the potential to attract a new generation of families to our area is huge. This generation is all about quality of life. They want good schools for their children, safe neighborhoods and good jobs. Many in this generation want a work-from-home option as they struggle to maintain work life balance or a community workplace and meeting space for small businesses, entrepreneurs, virtual employees and corporate teams. They are looking for solid technology infrastructure and good public transportation and will happily trade a commute in the car for a commute by train or bicycle. McHenry County is fortunate to have solid Metra service and governments who have worked to improve bike access. Locally owned businesses can expect a great deal of support from this generation and should work on attracting talent in this age bracket. Restaurants, farmer’s markets, bars, local artists and coffee shops in our muni’s will also benefit as Millennials seek out unique and fun places to unwind after a long week.
One area this group struggles with, however, is home ownership. They look at owning their own home as the ultimate symbol of “The American Dream”. With housing inventory in short supply in our county and interest rates still low, those that can buy are helping to reinvigorate a rebounding housing market which is good news for our local real estate marketing. However, many Millennials have been dealing with huge amounts of student loan debt which has prevented them from being able to save money to any great degree. While this is certain to improve over time as they advance in their careers, for now this group of families need single-family home rental options or multi-family housing in greater numbers than we have seen in the past. To keep the convenience of urban life, housing that is located near our downtown areas where they can easily access local businesses and trains is desired.
Just like the Baby Boomers before them, Millennials are going to change the landscape of America. MCEDC is working with our partners to market McHenry County and its assets to attract, not just business, but also the workforce needed to sustain and grow our businesses. Millennials have the potential to help McHenry County win big in the years to come as they start families and bring their spending power, talent, volunteerism and philanthropy from Chicago and other cities to McHenry County. MCEDC is engaged in developing strategies to reach out to this next generation and urge employers to review their growth and recruitment strategies to find ways to attract this next generation to McHenry County - we do have the best of the two lifestyles they seek.
Are you ready for the Millennials? Our kick off to the 2017 “Enhancing Excellence” breakfast speaker series will be covering this very topic and much more! Join us on May 18, 2017, 7:30 – 9:30 am, Crystal Lake Country Club, 721 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake. Reservations are required visit the MCEDC website at http://www.mchenrycountyedc.com/contact/online-event-registration or contact the office at 815.893.0895.