Our Town: How millennials are Shaping Rochester

Downtown Rochester is a story of slow progress but what does this progress mean for Rochester's residents and newcomers? Credit: Tianna Mañón

Downtown Rochester is a story of constant change- how can millennials get in on this process? Credit: Tianna Mañón

Millennials are the highest growing demographic in Rochester, according to recently released census data. The city’s population of 20 to 34 year olds jumped by 8.8 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Surpassing the national average, this growth spurt has encouraged major changes and earned Rochester a B+ rating from media company Growella. The Ohio-based firm ranked and graded the top 100 cities for millennials in a 2017 report. The report focused on career opportunity, cost of living, social outlets and individual happiness. Rochester came in at 29.

But millennials are not just flocking to the Roc for opportunities, they are creating them.

“So much development is going on in downtown right now and the decisions being made are going to echo for generations…How can we be the curators of that future?” asked Andrew Brady, Marketing Director for the Rochester Young Professionals, a networking organization for young adults.

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Through organizations like RYP, native Rochesterians and post-graduation transplants are doing more than meeting for happy hour. They are taking a genuine interest in the success of local projects and initiatives by working closely with the Mayor and other offices.

“We had a work for roc event with the mayor… learning more about the downtown developments… they had developers there, the commissioner of neighborhood development and we got into these focus groups and said here is what young professionals would like to see.” said Brady. Also present at these discussions are the Black Young Professionals organization. Focusing on providing equal opportunities for young people of color, BYP has been able to work with city hall to meet those goals as well.

But they aren’t stopping there. RYP and BYP members showed interest in getting involved with volunteer organizations to help shape communities in need. In five years, BYP raised over 10 thousand dollars for the Urban League of Rochester’s Black Scholars Program and RYP has developed partnerships with organizations eager for young volunteers.

“We partnered with United Way and the Community Foundation…125 nonprofit organizations and over 300 young professionals…Organizations that wanted to attract young professional board members, volunteers and those young professionals that wanted to get involved in the community in a more substantial way,” said Brady.

The mayor’s office has been excited about the influence millennials are having on the city’s growth and their dedication to seeing Rochester succeed.

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“Young people, millennial or otherwise they seem to be getting off their asses, trying to make themselves entrepreneurs or young professionals,” – Bowker

“We’ve been working with a number of young groups. They have been very very engaged with the city, in the things they would like to see,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. She praised young professional organizations for taking advantage of a city in transition.

In recent years, Rochester has worked hard to improve the quality of life for young adults by encouraging businesses to look to us when they think of expanding their operations. Several companies have chosen to stay or relocate to Rochester, bringing jobs. One thing that’s helping attract them are our universities. Rochester and surrounding areas boast 22 schools including state, private, and community colleges as well as trade schools.

“We’re concentrating not only on working with businesses but on keeping and attracting the talent,” said Warren who believes local colleges have worked to find their niche and that has helped them turn out graduates that attract new industries. A smart move considering millennials are 75.9 percent of working adults, making them the largest workforce currently.

But they’re not all work.

73 percent of millennials consider themselves to be creative according to InSites Consulting global survey. And that creativity is showing up in the form of personal branding through social media, entrepreneurship and flat-out fun ideas.

Take Casey Bowker, the man behind ROConnoisseur. He attests that more and more young adults he encounters are turning their ideas into something more.

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“There are so many people who will be like I have this really good idea and I wanna start this podcast or I wanna do this website or I wanna be a blogger, most of the people I have met …actually do things and don’t just say they are gonna do them.” Booker is not technically a millennial but is excited to see those that are taking a lead in Rochester.

“Young people, millennial or otherwise they seem to be getting off their asses, trying to make themselves entrepreneurs or young professionals,” said Bowker. He comes into contact with many of Rochester’s foodie bloggers, instagrammers and entrepreneurs through his work.

Even in a small city like Rochester, competition for creative space is not an issue. Many of the creative millennials want to collaborate or simply share the same spaces. Bowker says they become more like co-workers rather than competition.

Despite the bad wrap, millennials in Rochester are working hard to make this a city they can find success in. Whether it is a fulfilling job, walkable urban living or opportunities to better their community, it is easy to see that this group is dedicated to seeing Rochester transition into something we can all enjoy.

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