SALISBURY – Jobs are where the millennials are, according to recent data, and with the partnership of commercial stakeholders officials in Wicomico County want to incentivize Salisbury University graduates and young natives to remain in the area.
At a Commercial Real Estate Forum on Salisbury University’s campus last Friday, Mayor Jake Day and economic development directors from Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset Counties shared ideas and efforts to make their respective communities a desirable area in which young workers and entrepreneurs will want to invest.
“Today, talent is driving location decisions,” Day said. “Firms are following the talent and the talent is looking for place and place means not just beautiful buildings, but it means culture anchored in place. It means quality. It means craft. It means the arts are anchored in place. That has become our watch word. That has become the identity we are pursuing every single day. And a lot of that begins at the center. A lot of that begins with downtown Salisbury. That’s not the end. That’s not the whole story, but it is the beginning.”
Since his election last year, Day said he and other elected officials have established and continued a line of communication between the city and the university. Downtown revitalization projects and programs such as the Mayor’s Prize and “Buy a Home, Build a Business”, he said, act as incentives to remain in the area.
“We have a lot of great assets,” he said. “It’s relatively affordable. Quality of life is high. Compared to the rest of the country, it’s a pretty easy place to live. Over 2,000 young people are produced right here with a degree every single year and we let a lot of them go.”
Day said the city has netted more than 1,600 jobs in 2016 and recently reported more than 2,400 job openings, but he added that many young natives and college graduates-the nation’s most mobile population group- are choosing not to stay in Salisbury.
“You know, we did all the work to raise (them) …,” said Danny Thompson, executive director for Somerset County’s Economic Development Commission. “Then you have a place like Montgomery County and Howard County that gets the fruits of our labor.”
Day said Salisbury was the 42nd fastest growing job market in the U.S. in the past year and employers are looking for talented, young workers to fill positions on the Lower Shore.
“The name of the game is going to be workforce development,” Day said. “We need to fill these jobs with the people we have here today.”
Economist Anirban Basu, chairman and CEO with Sage Policy Group in Baltimore and featured speaker at Friday’s event, said many of today’s millennials are moving to states such as Florida, Washington, Utah and Oregon, areas which have seen the fastest job growth as a result.
“Millennials are moving there in large numbers,” he said.
“That’s the game. It’s the young worker, the young college graduate who is likely to move in any given calendar year. There are certain communities that prove to be magnetic to that population, and Seattle is one of them and Florida is another one of them.”
Yet Basu said the future is promising for communities in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset Counties, areas that realize the potential of marketing to college graduates.
“You show me a community that has added a lot of educated millennials and I’ll show you a society that is dynamic economically,” he said.
Day acknowledged that Salisbury is still dealing with an underperforming real estate market, overwhelming heroin epidemic and problematic juvenile behavior, but added that many private-sector businesses, government entities and residents want to invest in Salisbury’s economic and cultural revival.
“Our young people need our attention because they are absolutely the future of this community,” Day said. “It’s that youth and that vitality that is critical to our growth. We are investing in them.”