A next generation progress report

By: Tom Silvestri | Richmond Times Dispatch
Published: May 19, 2013

The orchestrated focus on the millennial generation is a big piece of a mosaic that describes the future of the Richmond Region.

That’s the reason the Richmond Times-Dispatch is dedicating our 47th Public Square to raising awareness about the YRVA Study, now that there’s a set of conclusions about what the generation born between approximately 1980 and 2001 requires to establish long-term roots and value in the capital region.

At Tuesday’s civic conversation — and with follow-up presentations at other venues — we should be all ears about what it will take to attract and retain young professionals in Richmond and surrounding localities.

As it turns out, our previous Public Square discussions have included several issues of importance to millennials.

  • Safety and confronting crime
  • Affordable housing
  • Social networking via technology
  • Amenities in an urban setting
  • Tourism and attractions
  • A community that values civil discourse

We’ll build on that record by making the time to understand the millennial perspective and recommendations. In addition to a thorough survey, the YRVA Study benchmarked Richmond against select metropolitan regions considered ahead of us on the progressive and creative scale.

The upshot: Nothing is stopping Richmond from excelling and jumping ahead.

Millennials, we’re told, are willing to invest once the Richmond Region fully embraces the attributes of being the Capital of Creativity and employers provide a steady supply of jobs that foster lasting connections to “a community for the common good.”

The YRVA recommendations fit nicely with the region’s other mosaic pieces taking shape in the past five to 10 years. Among them:

  • Resurgence of urban living
  • Strong cultural, museum and festival offerings
  • Removal of the ‘80s stain caused by a high murder count
  • Health-care advancement fueled by competition and innovation
  • Downtown headquarters, suburban office centers and a healthy mix of white- and blue-collar jobs
  • A surprisingly — for our size — vibrant food scene
  • Expectations we can be a launching pad for entrepreneurs
  • Universities and colleges contributing as economic engines.

Generally speaking, the YRVA project is more than just the next generation presenting a wants list. In an important way, the assessment is a progress report on the positive aspects of the Richmond Region, with no hangups or frustration for what has held us back in previous decades. It’s an honest attempt to belong, as well as to raise up and advance a region rich in potential.

We have problems, for sure, but we can change what we see in the mirror with this new opportunity.

Thanks to the think tank Richmond’s Future, which sponsored the project, the YRVA conclusions are must-reads for Richmond employers eager to win the race for talent. A common thread throughout the recommendations is the establishment of jobs that allow employees to create — new projects, new results, new things.

Do that, Richmond, and you probably will have a talent surplus, the millennials say.

On that score, The Times-Dispatch is willing to convene CEOs and human resource directors in our region to further explore the YRVA possibilities, next steps and required actions. Let’s explore.

Finally, the YRVA advocates are not telling the established, “Here we come, get out of the way.”

Rather, with more baby boomers retiring each day, the young professionals are ready to show up for work and get it done.

And contribute, in a big way, to the region’s momentum.

Excitement here can go a long way.

Tom Silvestri is president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Silvestri has seen the YRVA recommendations that involved a group of about 30 millennials who helped to craft the conclusions. A key player is The Times-Dispatch’s Michael Phillips, whose byline regularly appears on the Sports pages (and appears nearby in Commentary today). You’ll see Michael in action if you attend the Public Square. We’re already proud of him.