Public Square: Attracting RVA’s next generation

Richmond Times Dispatch
Published: June 2, 2013

On May 21, The Times-Dispatch held its 47th Public Square at its downtown office. It was a most energetic conversation, as a packed house discussed ways to make the Richmond region more appealing to the millennial generation, roughly those born between 1983 and 2001. We began with a presentation on facts and attitudes from the YRVA Study, which took a close look at the opinions of young professionals and their views about Richmond. The study was conducted by the Southeastern Institute of Research on behalf of Richmond’s Future, a think tank led by Eugene Trani, president emeritus of VCU. A lively discussion followed, led by a panel of young professionals who worked on the YRVA Study. The evening ended with reactions to the study from three local employers and a challenge from Times-Dispatch Publisher Tom Silvestri for regional action. Today, we present highlights from an important discussion. To watch the entire evening, go to and search for Public Square.


Tom Silvestri, publisher and moderator: Welcome to the Richmond Times-Dispatch Public Square, where a most unusual event will happen tonight. It will be the debut of the YRVA Study, an unprecedented delivery of a body of work that should motivate our region to answer this question: “Will they stay or will they go?” …

Rachel Burgess, vice president, Southeastern Institute of Research (SIR): Millennials are those born between 1983 and 2001. This is the generation that we really are focusing on because they’re the future of the young professional workforce. But the thing is, there’s a coming war over attracting and retaining young professionals. … If we look at the demographic of those aged 55-plus, that’s going to grow in the next 15 years by 25 million. The demographic age between 20 and 55 is only going to grow by 12 million. And that is a very big gap. So you’re going to see all of these people living longer. They’re going to be leaving the workforce and there’s not going to be enough people coming in. So there’s going to be a fight over the young people.

And at the same time, we’re seeing a shift in where people are living. They’re moving from rural communities into urban environments. And so, again, this is a big deal for cities because they’re going to be fighting over these young professionals because they don’t want their city to have a jobs war. Richmond is going to be a part of this fight. So how do we not be one of the losing cities in this? And that is why Richmond’s Future has asked this question. Dr. Trani came to SIR, and we created the YRVA study.

We had over 3,500 people participate in several surveys. We asked over 100 questions, gained about 350,000 plus data points. And we have over 500 pages in multiple reports. … We studied college students across Virginia focusing on those in Richmond, but then also outside of Richmond but in Virginia. We looked at young professionals in peer cities, and then young professionals in Richmond. We also interviewed in collaboration with the (Greater Richmond Chamber) business leaders and then we did some focus groups with HR leaders. …

We invited young professionals to help us with this project. We invited the people that you’re going to get to meet tonight and they actually helped us craft the questionnaires. They helped disseminate the surveys. They helped us analyze the data. And then they put together the reports that you’re about to see. … And they have developed the recommendations themselves. … I won’t go through their names right now; they’ll introduce themselves as they come up.

Coldon Martin, account coordinator/photographer, Pulsar Advertising: I am part of the college and universities part of the study. … When we took a look at the data, it really came down to two major findings. These are the farm-raised meat and all-organic potatoes of the survey as far as we’re concerned. And that is really about our biggest asset, which is our sense of culture and the kind of creative atmosphere that we’re breeding here in Richmond. But we also want to look at our biggest attractor, which we feel is jobs and job choices. …

In our group, we took a look at 589 different surveys that were turned in from people in schools in the Richmond area … but we also took a lot of data from people in schools elsewhere in the state. … It only takes a few seconds of walking outside to see that right now, Richmond is an incredibly exciting place to be. There are countless ways that people are expressing their sense of creativity and innovation. … We took a look at the data, and we saw that 78 percent of people in our town that are going to school here absolutely love it here. And why do they love it? They gave us the reasons. No. 1 is food. And this doesn’t just mean incredible wealth of food options, but rather sort of the scene that it cultivates in. … You have the socializing, you’ve got the nightlife and the bars, shows to go to every night of the week. And then you’ve got these great community events. You’ve got the Folk Festival, you’ve got Dominion Riverrock, some incredible things that happen all the time that really allow the community to come together. … When we looked at the data, we were wondering, why isn’t this enough to keep people here? We saw that 41 percent of college students that are currently here only see themselves staying here for one to two years after graduation before they potentially want to go move on and explore other markets. And then for students elsewhere in the state, we saw that 43 percent of them are saying that they’re not even likely to consider moving here. And we understand that these aren’t exactly bad numbers, but we certainly think that there’s room for improvement. …

When we looked at the data, we saw that without a doubt, the No. 1 thing on people’s minds when they graduate is jobs. … But what was really interesting was the types of jobs that people wanted. We saw that 87 percent of students here and 76 percent of students elsewhere in the state are hungry for jobs that encourage creating new ideas and creating new content. Meaning that people our age aren’t exactly content to just join the workforce and start pushing paper, as they say. Instead they really want to take our sort of personality-driven approach that we take to everything that we do in life and apply it to the workplace.

Now this is a sort of scary notion, because not every business can support a team of freestyle poets or incredible acoustic guitar players at the workforce. But what we really saw was that creativity didn’t necessarily have to mean art in the traditional) sense of the word. It actually is more about a certain spirit, a certain sense of innovative, new and creative systems that can be applied to things that weren’t traditionally thought as creative. … We feel that the colleges and universities around here have an incredible resource at their disposal when people are sitting there waiting to graduate. We feel that exit surveys that really not only talk about people’s academic experience at a school but really talk about how the school connected them to the community, connected them to the world around them, are going to be incredibly valuable. … So it may seem like something very simple, but we feel that when people are ready to graduate, they’re ready to talk. And that data can be incredibly valuable for not only the universities but the employers in the area.

Patrice Lewis, outreach representative for Sen. Mark Warner: Our group looked at six cities around the United States that we consider our peers. … Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; Denver; Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; (and Atlanta). And the one thing that we said that sums up what young professionals from other cities, peer cities, think of when they think of Richmond is the word “nothing.” They really didn’t have anything negative to say about Richmond. They weren’t hating Richmond. But they weren’t in love with Richmond. They really didn’t know much about Richmond. … That means that Richmond is the nice guy. And you know how they say that nice guys finish last, well, that’s another way of saying that nice guys don’t really get much play because they’re not really in the game. …

When we looked at how does your community stack up in several different areas, and of all of the cities, Austin, Texas, had high marks for each and every category. … They love their city. And the thing is that in Richmond, Virginia, young professionals aren’t that far behind. The problem is we don’t really talk about what we have. We don’t have that Texas swagger. We don’t really boast about what we have.

Michael Phillips, Times-Dispatch sportswriter: Washington D.C.: It’s an hour and a half from here. You can drive up there. You can take the bus up there. You can take the train up there. And yet in Washington D.C., three out of every four young people said, “Nah, we’ve never been to Richmond. We don’t know anything about Richmond.” So yes, we want these people to move here. We want to employ them here. But let’s get them in the door first. What’s going to get these people into Richmond?

So let’s start with what’s not working. Here’s what’s not working. You know all these ad campaigns? Historic Richmond. The Civil War. The Robert E. Lee statue. Etc. They’re not working. You know, that’s not to say young people don’t like history. It’s not to say young people don’t connect with history. That’s just to say it’s not motivating them to come into Richmond. …

So we asked these people, “What do you want?” And here’s what they said. I mean, see history down at the bottom. Urban living environment’s a little higher. But man, towering over almost everything else, 78 percent of young people told us that when they’re considering a place to live, they want to see a great food scene. … And here’s how you get people to Richmond. No. 1: jobs. If you have great jobs, young people will come here and take those jobs. No. 2 though, if you want to get people in the door and introduce them to Richmond and get some Richmond tourists, we’ve found that you’re not going to do better than Richmond’s food scene. So because food scene is a pretty vague term, let’s find out what it means.

We asked people what do you want in a food scene. … Keep in mind, people in D.C. and Charlotte and Raleigh, they’re telling us they don’t have these things in their city. They’re not satisfied with these options. People in Richmond are telling us, yeah, we’ve got this, Richmond has this. A lot of you are probably familiar with the Restaurant Week concept. You know, once a year the restaurants will discount their meals. If any of you have ever been to a restaurant during Restaurant Week, you know it is slammed. You cannot get a table. People really respond to that. But those things — lots of great restaurants, cheap prices, good variety — we’ve got that every week. In Richmond, every week is Restaurant Week. That’s something that can bring people in the door into Richmond.

Andrew Ryan, partner, Commonwealth Partnerships Group, a real estate marketing and investment firm: What do we mean by the food scene? The food scene is more than just restaurants. It’s about creating shared experiences. It’s gathering places, bringing people together. It’s restaurants. It’s breweries. It’s wineries. It’s food festivals. It’s food truck courts. It’s community gardens. Young professionals in the millennial generation really strive for connections in creating community and culture amongst themselves. The food scene is the perfect place to do that. And that’s what helps bring us together.

We have three recommendations. … The first is a RVA restaurant website, essentially just a centralized location that has information about restaurants, including maps, menus, interviews with chefs, specials that are there. It has a yearlong calendar for food festivals that people can plan around and come to the city. It’s really just a centralized independent location, a one-stop shop. The second example brings in more of a governmental angle to it. It’s a food tourism campaign. Why not have local jurisdictions, economic development authorities, have their tourism offices get together and go after young professionals in a 250-mile radius, promote Richmond as a food tourism destination.” Get these people into town so they can see how great our region is and what we have to offer.. Finally, something that we’re probably most excited about is this idea of an RVA food fest. Think folk festival for the food scene, which is tough to say three times fast, but we think could work really well. It could be a signature event that puts Richmond on the map. Look at food from farm to table. Have chefs competing with one another. Have a charity component. Bring thousands of people to downtown Richmond to Brown’s Island, to the convention center, and talk about Richmond as a food destination, because that’s what’s going to get people into town. Ultimately, we think that we can leverage our food scene, which creates a sense of community. It creates a place for shared experiences.

Heather Harsh, website coordinator, Elephant Auto Insurance: We’re going to take you through what we found out about young professionals of Richmond. … When we asked our respondents, 79 percent said that they’re optimistic about the future here in RVA and 78 percent would move here again if they had to do it all over. And 79 percent love it here. When compared to our peer cities, only Austin and Denver love their cities more at 86 and 82 percent, so we’re in some pretty great company. … When you look at what RVA respondents said made them most satisfied with the city, they said, No.1, great food scene — we like to eat — an urban living environment, embraces creativity, embraces innovation and is safe. Richmond was the only city that had that ranking and that combination, which I think really points to how unique our population is. …

So there’s one other thing that really connected a lot of the dots for us. When asked what best describes you when deciding on where to live in general, either job first, location first, or people first, our respondents said people first. Denver was the only other city that said that. So now when we start to look at all of these responses combined, a really unique story begins to emerge when you start to think about what attracts and retains my generation, our generation. It’s not about the history or about our culture or even our craft beer, it’s about the community.

Lauren Sharp, senior learning and content strategist, Unboxed Technology, an interactive digital agency: So what really points to this story about community? … First, we’ve taken the plunge, we’re invested: 52 percent of our respondents had bought a home here in Richmond. … Next, we saw this sense of ownership, pride and purpose among our respondents: 80 percent had volunteered since living in Richmond. And 80 percent believe they can make a difference. That feeling wouldn’t exist without community. … Now let’s think about the creativity and the innovation, that theme that’s been running throughout our presentations tonight and what’s happening in our city right now. That really points to the fact that our respondents want to influence and shape and own the future of the city through the communities where we work, live and play. …

What makes up a great creative team is trust, familiarity between members and a shared commitment to a common goal. And we’re seeing that start to happen here in Richmond. TEDx, the theme of “create,” that wasn’t about individual artistic creative pursuits, that was about collective, collaborative, community-building creation for the common good of the city. … Why is this narrative about community important? Well, nationwide our social capital is at risk. Our generation is incredibly connected, but we’re lonely. We need to all feel heard and understood. And what makes community so attractive to us is the fact that it’s somewhere where you can picture yourself thriving long-term, past college, past your first job, into starting a family, building a career here, investing in your community, buying that home. So if community exists, both freedom and security may exist as well. And that sense of connectedness and formation of social networks comprises what’s known as social capital. So social capital, what’s really going to move the needle for Richmond’s future is the result of thriving communities.

So what can we do to really fuel this social capital and attract and retain these young professionals who are so important to it? Well, we need to create the conditions for community to flourish, and we can do that three ways. You’ve heard a lot of recommendations tonight. Some of ours overlap a little bit, but we believe that you can embrace innovation, rethink job opportunities and improve safety.

Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean investing a ton of money into R&D. Sometimes, it’s just having a conversation with the right people at the right time. … We recommend an innovation convocation where you … invite a panel of young professionals from diverse backgrounds and then invite members of companies to sit on this panel as well and share ideas, discuss issues and trends. That way innovation isn’t happening in a silo and you’re getting diverse, multigenerational input. …


Duron Chavis, Richmond: I saw very briefly, but it was a very powerful, brief view, the data on who was studied. It was like 86 percent white and 7 percent black. And so my question is: who is, what is community? When we think of community in Richmond, who are we talking about?

Twenty-five percent of Richmond is poor. Our focus today is talking about how we attract people from outside of Richmond to come into Richmond, to focus on jobs and the food scene. Well, there’s a lot of people in Richmond that are currently unemployed and there’s an entire, I would say, maybe three-fourths of the city that’s food insecure, that live in food deserts. They don’t have access to healthy produce. They don’t even have a grocery store within a mile or more of their neighborhoods. So when we talk about this, this is a really ironic study, that we’re talking about Richmond’s food scene when there’s people in the city that don’t have a grocery store within a mile or more — and literally can’t afford one even if there was. …

When we’re talking about studies like this, who are we asking what community is? And when we’re defining and trying to make decisions for the city, are we just asking the couple of folks that are in our circle what community is? And what about those people that are marginalized and don’t get an opportunity to speak?

Heather Harsh: We were disappointed when we got the demographic information back from our survey that there was such a huge difference. The point of the survey was to reach out to diverse people, diverse groups. It went through social media. We reached out to various colleges. … And unfortunately we saw a lack of response from other ethnicities.

So what we took away from that was either: (1) we didn’t approach it the right way and we missed something; or (2) there is this gap with young professionals and the diverse makeup of what a young professional is in Richmond overall. … Ken Johnson (CEO of Johnson Enterprises) has offered up the funding for us to do a study that really is zeroing in on those more diverse populations so we get those numbers up and see how it impacts our study, because we certainly don’t want to do something that’s only looking at a small fraction.

Patrice Lewis: I think what makes our survey and our information unique is that we bring something different to the table. You know, transportation has been a big issue for Richmond for a long time. And that’s always going to be an issue. Education’s going to be an issue. Economic diversity is going to be an issue. And so we’re kind of presenting another side to it, something that’s a little bit different that gives an added bonus to what already has been going on and will be going on with Richmond.

John Bolecek, Richmond: I live in Oregon Hill and I work downtown, and I think it’s very important to underscore the importance of transportation. Young people do not want to drive to work. I ride my bike to work. I love it. I wouldn’t want to take a job where I have to drive. And so making Richmond more transit-friendly, walk-friendly and bike-friendly is extremely important. And to not really pick the low-hanging fruit, like really put some serious investment into these modes. Additionally, a comment for the employers in the region: Locate downtown. Young people want to work downtown. They want to work in a community.

Lauren Sharp: I loved exposed brick in downtown as well. However, I do work for a small start-up company, and we’re unable to afford the high cost of working downtown. So I get what you’re saying. But also I think that there’s an economic component involved that has, unfortunately, for a lot of start-up businesses, forced them to locate elsewhere. But The Boulders is cool, and we have foosball.

Matthew Davey, Richmond: How do you all see the idea of how Richmond should develop? I have ideas like Boulevard retail districts, a Shockoe entertainment district, and ideas that involve a regulated entertainment district. Have any of you all been to Savannah or Kansas City or San Antonio? Savannah has the Historic District. Kansas City has the Power and Light District, which is kind of what Shockoe Bottom could be. Or the River Walk in San Antonio. We have the Canal Walk that could be developed that way. So how would you all approach the idea of seeing Richmond develop for young professionals?

Andrew Ryan: I’ve done a bunch of research in the real estate industry, and I think you’re right that our generation’s a little bit different. And that’s why you’re seeing this boom in mixed-use developments that are happening downtown and elsewhere, that kind of live, work, play mentality. And I think that goes back to the deeper issue of community, that people want to be near each other, they want to be connected.

Joe Shilling, Richmond: I was one of the fortunate millennials that got to go on the chamber’s trip to Denver. One of the things that kind of struck us was through regional collaboration and some of the things that they did with establishing their mass transit and their cultural district, they were able to attract millennials. So how do you propose that we really tactically get buy-in from, you know, for better or for worse, the boomer generation here in Richmond in trying to bring about some of these changes that are going to help attract young professionals and get them to stay?

Lauren Sharp: I think buy-in from our elders is going to come from humility and listening and being open to their suggestions as well, because there is a level of experience that has gone before us. So yes, we have a lot of new ideas, but we need to approach things with a level of respect as well.

Sam Davies, Richmond: I’m a city resident, father of two small girls. I like the food scene as well, but I think as you all alluded to, community is a holistic approach. The word school did not appear in your executive summary. The word family appeared once. I’m a remote employee for a company that’s not in Richmond. What does your data show will keep me here when it’s time for my girls to go to middle school?

Michael Phillips: We intentionally used the wording “RVA” because we’re not just studying Richmond city tonight and certainly families do move out to the counties. We were studying how to get people into the metro region as opposed to Richmond city itself, I guess is a qualifier on that.

Alexsis Rodgers, Mechanicsville: I am the young professional that you’re talking about that wants to stay in Richmond. I’m curious though if any research that you pointed to or that you looked at said that students or Richmond natives don’t want to stay in Richmond because they’re just ready to go somewhere else. Do we live in a society that says, we’re global-focused, get out there, go try somewhere new, don’t stay at home? And how do we work with that to keep people here anyway?

Coldon Martin: We’re going to want people to spread out in our country and to try new places. I guess the perspective that we were looking at it with is that we want to showcase that these kind of huge buzz-word cities: Austin, Seattle, New York, we want to showcase that Richmond actually has quite similar resources. Traditionally … we don’t like to think that we have all these incredible things, when we really do. And so I don’t think it’s really a matter of trying to prevent people from leaving, but rather showing them the reasons why they can and should stay.

Tom Silvestri: Are there any civic leaders in the audience to hear this feedback? OK, Jay, I’m going to put you on the spot. You represent all the civic leaders, and God bless you for showing up tonight. But you heard the urban (preference), you’re the county administrator in Chesterfield. Any reaction to the notion of it’s an urban setting they want?

Jay Stegmaier, Chesterfield County administrator: The dilemma that I think Richmond is facing was expressed very clearly to me by a friend who manages a very large engineering firm here out of Richmond who said to me, “I can’t get an engineer under the age of 30 to move to Richmond at any price. But I’ve got guys a little bit older than 30 who I’d love to have take over my office in Denver, and they won’t leave Richmond.” … The ones who won’t leave are the ones who have kids in the school system. So we have a great thing going in Richmond for families. This has for many, many years been a family-oriented community. We have great schools and a very high quality of life. But we have missed the boat on learning how to attract the next generation of leaders.

So we have to figure out how we’re going to preserve the outstanding quality of life for families that we already have and attract more young people to come here. … I’m disappointed that I’m the only leader of my type here tonight, but more of them should be here and should be listening to this. Some of us are very interested in moving young people into more responsible positions in our organizations because we realize, if nothing else, we don’t have much time left, and we need you all to fix the problems that we’re going to leave behind. And I think more employers are recognizing that. I would encourage you as young people, you know, I’d love to hear more about really when you meet with a prospective employer what you’re looking for. But if you came to Chesterfield County and you talked with me, one of the things I would tell you is that I am very interested in getting young professionals on key teams that are working on defining what the quality of life is going to be in RVA 15 and 20 years from now. And more employers need to do that, engage you, give you the opportunity to spread your wings and show what you can bring to the table to help define the future of the region.


Jacob Geiger, editor and director of Work It, Richmond: … Now I get to introduce my panel. … Closest to me is Scott Blackwell. He’s the chief culture officer at Health Diagnostic Laboratory. You’ve been around Richmond for a while, Scott, because you were at Williams Mullen before this and also LandAmerica and CarMax. … And in the middle we’ve got Joel Erb, he’s someone who’s been around Richmond for a while. He is the president of INM United, that’s an interactive marketing and advertising agency. And he started it when he was a teenager. … And on the far side is Ron Carey, who’s the director of human resources and a senior vice president at The Martin Agency. And before that, we had the good fortune to have him working here at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. …

All three of these folks are in a position where they handle hiring, they handle recruitment, they handle management of the talent they have. And so one of the things we saw from the survey is there was a real emphasis on jobs and job descriptions that focus on the ability to make something or create something or create content. And so it got me wondering when you are recruiting this millennial generation, do you use a different style or emphasis of recruiting than when you’re recruiting, say, a Gen-Xer or a boomer to come into your organization?

Ron Carey: I think for us it’s interesting because we’re in a content-creation business. For those of you that don’t know, we do advertising. We created the gecko, the Geico character. But the draw for us and for those that we talk to is they’re interested in coming and doing the best work of their lives and creating something that they might not be able to create someplace else. And so that’s the allure of, I think, joining us.

Joel Erb: We have to really tap into, what is it that the millennial generation, which makes up our workforce, what do they really want? … We’re really honing in on the fact that millennials really want to have meaningful work. They want to do work that they can see the fruit of their labor. And in many instances for us, we’re dramatically shifting the focus of the company to being one that is focusing on helping others, working with organizations that are building a better tomorrow. And that’s been a mission that resonated and actually was created by our company, by the staff itself.

Scott Blackwell: I don’t know that we have a specific strategy for attracting younger people. It happens somewhat by default. One thing that’s very important for millennials is doing good and serving the community. And our mission is to save lives, it’s very simple. That’s what we do at HDL every day. So our mission really connects with people who are generally younger. If you’re there, you’re doing something that’s very focused on saving a life versus pushing paper around. And it sort of bears out in our demographics, between the ages of 20 and 24 is 15 percent of our population, which is incredibly young. But under the age of 29 is a little over 40 percent. And if you take a look at the management in our laboratories, our technologists, our lead technologists, there are 19 of them and 14 of those people are under the age of 30 and the average age is 28. So again, there’s no specific strategy, but I think because of the nature of what we do, it does attract younger folks.

Geiger: Do you all tend to hire a lot of local college grads? And are there specific ways you let those college students who are approaching graduation know what’s available at your company?

Erb: The last four hires we’ve had at the company have been directly out of colleges from both VCU and U of R. Two of those people started as interns with the company, so they were able to get exposure while they were in college, one of which worked part time while he was in college for a year and a half before he graduated and joined full time. So we’re putting ourselves out at job fairs with the schools, and we’re definitely making an effort to bring local groups, user groups and things into our office so that we’re bringing the community inside. …

Carey: I think for us, we’ve done probably more hiring from the Brandcenter at VCU. We don’t do as much on the undergrad level. When we do hire on the undergrad level, it tends to be more in the operational side. Once you kind of create an employer brand, we don’t have to do the job fairs as much. I think the type of work that we do generates an interest that people, if you’re interested in going into advertising, you know some of the projects that we do, and so that kind of generates a buzz on its own.

Blackwell: We have a great relationship with VCU. They think a lot like we think, so there’s kind of a natural progression down Broad Street from the school to HDL. I think a big indicator of how we treat the schools is our intern program. And this year, we’ve got almost 40 interns, and they range in age from 16 to about 24. So that’s a huge investment of time and money that we’re putting into the school, to feeder schools.

Shauna Mullan-Smith, Richmond: I wanted to follow up on (the) question to you about the work, life balance, flexibility in the workforce, team-driven performance and people working from home. How do you see that play out in the performance of your teams or of your employees? I mean I would imagine there’s some people who perform better in a more structured environment, some people who are going to work really well the team dynamics. How do you see it in terms of performance?

Carey: When you work in a creative space and you work in a creative business, there’s a lot to be said for feeding off of the other person. And there’s an energy that happens once you’re inside of the building and you’re into the project. I think for us, there are certain positions that are much easier for you to work from home and to have that flexible arrangement. But I think when you’re in the work, and for us we often talk about the work, and the work for us is the production of a campaign or brand or an experience that someone’s going to have on the Web. That experience sometimes can be harder to accomplish when the two individuals aren’t together. And often for us, you’ll see a writer and an artist together, along with someone in the technology space. But you need that chemistry.

Blackwell: I think in our workplace, we go out of our way to not be judgmental. And what I mean by that is if somebody cranks it out from 9 to 5, shuts down their computer and walks out at 5, we try not to judge that and compare them to the person who’s there until 10 p.m. We realize that everybody contributes at a different pace on a different day. And believe it or not, for a scientific laboratory, we’re incredibly creative. We want people to do odd things and innovative things. We’ve got people in rooms tearing down machines and putting them back together, and doing things that have never been done anywhere in the world. So yes, while they’ve got to be there and face to face to interact with the equipment and interact with other scientists or lab technicians, we kind of throw all the rules out the window, and that works for us.

Kanwar Singh, Richmond: What are some of the tools you’re using and what are some of the resources that you provide or make available to folks, especially prospective candidates, as they are either trying to visit your companies on site or at least when you’re trying to sell them on the Richmond region?

Carey: We would love to get a lot of our talent from this marketplace, but it’s amazing when we’re talking to folks from Sao Paolo, we’re talking to folks from Amsterdam, we bring people literally in from all over the world. First of all, when you tell someone in Sao Paolo that you’re going to come to Richmond, Virginia, the phone kind of goes silent on the other end because first of all it’s, “Where is Richmond, Virginia?” And we do the: “If you get here, you’re going to fall in love with the place because it’s fantastic.”

We send them information. We use some of the products that come out of the Times-Dispatch magazine in terms of the annual best places to go and experience. … And often we have to schedule a trip and bring both spouses along or both partners along so that they can actually come to Richmond and experience it. And once they get here and start to see the kind of cost of living, the experience down in Shockoe, the office, all of that, that entire experience, it feeds on itself. There are quite frankly some people that aren’t ever going to take up the opportunity to come here and work because it just doesn’t appeal to them. But there are plenty that once they do, they really get hooked.


Tom Silvestri: I’ll offer a challenge to every employer in the greater Richmond region to engage with the study. Offer a challenge to find out what Richmond’s Future has laid down as an information track about tomorrow’s workplace. And I offer this room to any group of CEOs or any group of HR executives to get in a room and share best practices to take the next step, because one thing that (the millennial generation) can do that is different than previous generations, you can keep the study off the shelf and on the main road to actions that really uplift our society and our community. You have something else: You have no bias about what’s happening for us in the future and really a refreshing amount of pride of what this community can be all about. That alone, that alone can be the catalyst for the next change. … I want to thank our audience for coming. I don’t know whether a free admission can be sold-out, but (tonight is a full house) thanks to you. But I really appreciate you spending 90 minutes on this important topic, and I hope you do take those words and on your own, with your employer or with your colleagues or with your neighborhood, take the next step.