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Attracting millennials to work, live in the Greensboro area

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Everyone -- well, every city -- is in love with millennials.

There’s a good reason for it, says UNC Greensboro geography professor, Keith Debbage, “The young millennials tends to be more innovative, in part because they're more tech savvy so the great companies of tomorrow are more likely to come from the young millennials than the middle-aged on up.”

And, unlike previous generations which often went wherever the work was, millennials, Debbage says, tend to look for where they want to live first and then see what job they can get there. What they look for, he says, are amenities like nightlife and recreation.

“That did not ring true for me,” says Mary Lesa Pegg, who graduated from East Carolina, came to UNC Greensboro for grad school, got a job and stayed. “It was such a great opportunity that I kept it and, while I was here, I became engaged with what was happening in Greensboro. The job came first.”

On top of bringing in young professionals like Pegg, the Triad has nearly 75,000 college students in any given year, which is a huge, built-in advantage.

“We get them in, but we can't retain them because even though we do have some amenities -- one great example is the craft breweries downtown, the urban greenway -- but our local economy is more about make-it-and-move-it and less about think-it-and-serve-it,” says Debbage, and that is why many young professionals leave.

Pegg says it’s an easier sell than you might think.

“I don't think everyone knows what Greensboro offers. It's a fun story to tell and then you just convince everyone to come visit you and then they're sold on Greensboro and then you're trying to find them jobs in Greensboro because then they're ready to move.”

“If you look at the majority of young millennials, what do they want besides amenities? They want affordability,” notes Debbage. “Even though we do have some issues in that area, relatively speaking compared to the big markets - the Seattles, the New Yorks, the San Franciscos and the Bostons - we are much more affordable than those marketplaces.”

North Carolina is among the top dozen states at attracting young, millennial talent.

Jose Sandoval, another young professional who left Orlando to live in Greensboro, says the best way to retain millennials is to make them part of the process.

“Bring the young folks to the table,” says Sandoval. “I hear a lot that people want to retain young professionals but they're not getting young professionals ideas or opinions on what to do. We just want a seat at the table – we want to be heard.”

“(This area) is underrated and we don't want to be underrated,” says Pegg.

See more, in this edition of the Buckley Report.