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Robert Trigaux

Florida shut out of list of next wave of predicted metro hotspots for young workers




Wake up and good morning. It seems less important to us now -- this race among metro areas to become cool destination magnets for young, creative people. Here in Tampa Bay and Florida, we're more absorbed in the more immediate, survival task of finding jobs for anyone to do anything.

Still, once the dust clears economically, we will wish again that Tampa Bay had a stronger reputation as a "Go To" place for young, sharp and well educated workers. In the long run, without those workers adding to the Tampa Bay area, we're not going to raise the bar on quality jobs. (Photo by tbt: Emerge Tampa, a networking group for young area business people, holds one of its gatherings at Channelside.)

That's the scene setter for an interesting story and survey in today's Wall Street Journal. The newspaper asked six experts to rank the ten U.S. cities they see as most likely to emerge as "youth magnet" cities after the recession. Hint: None of the ten are in Florida (no surprise there given our economy). In fact, only one of the ten is even in the southeastern United States. Even Atlanta failed to make the list. That's not a good sign at all.

You're probably familiar with some of these experts if you read this blog regularly or pay attention to demographic stories concerning the nation and Florida. The panelists range from Richard Florida (Tampa Bay knows him well since he came here in 2003 and sparked the Creative TampaBay movement); William Frey of Brookings who's the guru of population trends and earlier this year called Florida's dramatic slowdown in new arrivals the end of a "migration bubble"; Milken Institute director of regional economics Ross Devol, who in 2002 said an inadequate supply of housing "makes it impossible to have a housing bubble"; along with Moody's Steve Cochrane, University of Maryland senior lecturer Rachel Franklin and University of Arizona professor David Plane.

So which cities did these experts predict as the next coolest? Places they did not choose that once were in favor are Naples, Fla. (economy in shambles), Las Vegas (housing bust) and Charlotte, N.C. (bloom's off its banking rose).

Here are the experts top picks and why:

1. A tie between Seattle and Washington, D.C. Seattle still radiates a high tech, lifestyle aura and even aging Microsoft can recruit plenty of young folks. And Washington draws young people because tech services are big there, President Obama is still a youth attraction and, frankly, the federal government is hiring people that the private sector is not.

3. New York. With Wall Street reeling, how can this be? Because younger, recession-wary people want bigger cities where they are less vulnerable to job cuts (or at least have better chances to find another if they do lose a job). Still, it costs big bucks to live in New York. On a personal note, I know of a number of young people who have flocked to New York -- even Manhattan -- and are either sharing apartments with multiple friends to cut costs or, if they are lucky, continue to be subsidized by Mom and Dad.

4. Portland, Ore. So how can a metro area smaller than Tampa Bay with an equally appalling unemployment rate of 11.4 percent (Tampa Bay's is 11.3 percent) rank so high on the hipness meter?  Because its reputation for smart growth, mass transit and outdoor and quirky lifestyle outweighs its troubled economy.

5. Austin, Tex. It remains a hotspot for music fans and techies, all wrapped up in a nice scale for living and a nearby University of Texas to keep minds busy.

The remaining winners, by these experts' picks, are San Jose Calif.; Denver; Durham, N.C. (the Southeast's only representative on this list); Dallas; Chicago and Boston.

There was a time in better economic days when Tampa Bay aspired to be on one of these lists as the next hot spot for migrating young hot shots. We even commissioned surveys to show us the way. I'm sure we'll start that drumbeat anew when the current economic malaise eases. But we will probably be further behind the curve of luring a fickle next generation, and presumably preoccupied by the arrival of more retiring baby boomers.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:26am]


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