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Generational Foresight

Eight years ago, as Colleen Chappell prepared to lead the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, she kept hearing about the importance of Millennials.

“When I was moving up to become chair, listening and paying attention to all the other leaders on the board, everybody was talking about the Millennials,” says Chappell, CEO of ChappellRoberts, a Tampa advertising agency. “We talked about the importance of growing our talent pool to become a thriving, top-tier city, and the key to that was attracting Millennials. It was the topic of conversation at every meeting, but I looked around the table, and there were no Millennials on the board.”

So, when Chappell became chair in 2015, one of the first things she did was work with Craig Richard, the EDC’s president and CEO, to attract Millennials in leadership positions.

The council researched the Millennial market to try to understand what they looked for in a city, which turned out to be vibrant downtowns where they could both live and work, a supportive environment for startups, access to good workforce training programs and abundant dining and entertainment options, including craft beer breweries. The EDC then used that information to promote the region to Millennial executives, hoping to get them to start businesses in Hillsborough County and Tampa, rather than other cities that were attracting them, such as Charlotte, Dallas, Nashville and Atlanta.

Chappell says the effort worked. She cites, for example, a 2021 report from CBRE, a real estate services company based in Dallas. The report, called Scoring Tech Talent, found that Tampa ranked eighth nationally in growing its population of Millennials, with a 14.5% increase since 2014. The report also found that Tampa’s pool of tech workers increased 23.5% from 2016 to 2020.

But attracting young executives and boosting the region’s talent pool, she says, is an ongoing job. Looking toward the future, Chappell suggests continuing to communicate with Millennials to understand their “motivations, passions and needs” to make sure more of them keep moving here to work and create startups. She says it’s also important that they engage with the business community and become leaders.

“What's critical is to stay ahead of the needs of this growing base of talent,” she says. “It’s very, very exciting to see that not only are we attracting Millennials, but Millennials now have a seat at the table. They have to have a voice, and we have to listen to them.” — By Art Levy